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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 14:09 GMT 15:09 UK
Roman's reasons
By Dmitry Shishkin

The Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich
Abramovich is reported to be the second richest man in Russia
The sale of Chelsea to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is one of the sports stories of the year.

Out of the blue and with huge ramifications, it is story that has stunned the football and business communities of Britain and Russia.

But why has the oil and aluminium tycoon done it? What does Abramovich hope to gain from this foray into football?

For answers to those questions, and others, read on.


Business interests

With an estimated personal fortune of 3.5bn, Abramovich clearly has the funds to widen his business empire.

And Chelsea, 80m in debt, badly need the Russian oil tycoon's cash.

But Abramovich will be on to a nice little earner if Chelsea do well in next season's Champions League.

"We have the resources and ambition to achieve even more given the huge potential of this great club," he said in a statement.

From a business point of view, the Blues and Abramovich link looks mutually beneficial.

Sports interests

Citigate Dewe Rogerson, the company taking care of Abramovich's public relations in the West, have said he is a keen football fan.

And it has been reported that Abramovich, who already owns an ice hockey team in Omsk, was interested in several Russian football clubs.

But their financial situation is incomparable with those in the West, so he decided to go abroad before looking at home.

Personal interest

Perhaps the biggest reason for Abramovich's move, however, is the boost to his international profile.

Coming out of nowhere to pay 140m for one of the most famous clubs in Europe is a dream advert for a man who until now has been media-shy.

Up until 1999, when he was first elected to parliament as a deputy for the region of Chukotka, Russian television did not even have an image of him.

Abramovich first came to national prominence during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin.

The businessman was usually refered to as a "family banker" - "family" as in belonging to Yeltsin's close circle.

Unlike his friend Boris Berezovsky - another Yeltsin-era tycoon now living in exile in London - Abramovich has not quarrelled with Yeltsin's successor as president, Vladimir Putin.

As governor of Chukotka since 2000 he has been careful to remain on side with the new regime in the Kremlin.

But as Yeltsin's man he remains vulnerable in Putin's Russia.

Investing money in the high-profile world of English football enables him to distance himself from Russian domestic issues and come across as a global entrepreneur.

And this is the image Abramovich will be hoping to foster with his ownership of Chelsea.




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