Roman Abramovich: The Billionaire Behind Chelsea FC

Roman Arkadievich Abramovich is a Russian-Israeli billionaire, oil tycoon, and business magnate, counted among the wealthiest Russian oligarchs. In 2021, Forbes ranked him with a personal fortune of $15.2 billion. Beyond his financial prowess, Abramovich gained international recognition for his ownership of the English football club, Chelsea.


Roman Abramovich was born on October 24, 1966, in Saratov, Russia, to a Jewish family of Lithuanian descent. Tragedy struck early in his life as he lost his mother when he was just a year and a half old. Two and a half years later, his father also perished in a workplace accident in the construction industry. At the tender age of four, Abramovich was orphaned and subsequently adopted by his uncle, who raised him in the challenging environment of the Komi region in northwest Russia.

Abramovich began working in an industrial institution in Okhtyrka before being conscripted into the Soviet Army. After completing his military service, he returned to Okhtryka and started studying at an industrial institute in 1983, although it appears he did not finish his studies.

Abramovich amassed his wealth by acquiring shares of Russian industrial companies that were privatized following the collapse of communism. He held significant shares in the oil giant Sibneft and was also a major shareholder in Rusal, the world's largest aluminum producer.

In November 2003, Abramovich secretly met with Yukos Oil Company's co-owner, Leonid Nevzlin, in Israel to discuss a merger with Sibneft. During this meeting, an agreement was reached for Abramovich to receive $3 billion in cash and 26% of Yukos shares in exchange for his stake in Sibneft. However, shortly after, this deal was canceled when Yukos' CEO and controlling owner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was arrested by the Kremlin on fraud charges, and Yukos was burdened with massive tax bills. Subsequently, the Russian government took control of Yukos.

In September 2005, Abramovich sold Sibneft to the Russian government for $13.1 billion. This sale came after the government had originally sold a 51% stake in Sibneft to him for $100 million in late 1996.

In August 2006, Abramovich sold his shares in Rusal to oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Abramovich was a business partner of Boris Berezovsky, who was the largest shareholder in Sibneft when it was privatized. In July 2005, Berezovsky sued Abramovich for $4 billion in a British court, alleging that Abramovich had taken control of Sibneft's shares and ousted him from the company after he fled Russia in 2000. In his defense, Abramovich admitted to paying off other oligarchs to protect his business interests in the Russian government. However, Berezovsky lost the case in 2008 and died in London under mysterious circumstances in 2013.

In 1999, Abramovich was elected as the representative for the Chukotka district in the State Duma (the Russian Parliament). After his election, he began donating significant sums to the district's residents, particularly children. In December 2000, Abramovich was appointed the governor of Chukotka, replacing Alexander Nazarov.

Since then, he has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the region, funding projects such as the construction of a college and hotels in Anadyr, as well as the revitalization of the local airport. Additionally, he used Chukotka to provide a tax haven for Sibneft, and through his control of the company, organized extensive oil exploration efforts throughout the region.

He was reelected as governor of Chukotka in late 2005. In October 2008, he was elected as a member of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug's parliament, and a week later was appointed chairman of the regional parliament.

In 2003, Abramovich became the owner of Chelsea Football Club, purchasing it after investing £140 million, with £80 million of that amount covering the club's debts. Under his ownership, Chelsea made significant investments in world-class football players.

The results were immediate success as Chelsea won the English Premier League in the 2004/2005 and 2005/2006 seasons, and other accomplishments cemented Chelsea's status among the world's elite football clubs.

Abramovich is also known as a Formula 1 enthusiast and has occasionally visited racing circuits. In 2004, there were rumors that Abramovich was considering investing in the sport after Formula 1's then-owner, Bernie Ecclestone, gave him a tour of the Monaco Grand Prix circuit. In April 2012, Chelsea Football Club and the Formula 1 team Sauber signed a partnership agreement.

Around the world, he is recognized as the owner of Chelsea Football Club, which he has used as a platform to promote the fight against anti-Semitism and hatred. Abramovich leads a unique and comprehensive global campaign under the name "Say No to Antisemitism," dedicated to raising awareness about anti-Semitism.

The club collaborates with prominent organizations such as the World Jewish Congress, ADL, Holocaust Educational Trust, and major American Jewish organizations. Chelsea players, management, staff, and fans have personally met Holocaust survivors, participated in the March of the Living, and actively confronted anti-Semitism. This campaign strives to make a positive impact and foster tolerance globally.

Abramovich owns a private Boeing 767 aircraft known as "The Bandit" due to its distinctive black color. In September 2007, it was reported that Abramovich had ordered an Airbus A380, which costs around $300 million. If confirmed, he would become the first private owner of this type of aircraft.

In April 2010, he acquired a yacht named 'Eclipse' for an estimated cost of $1.2 billion. At 162.5 meters in length, it was, at the time, the second-largest yacht in the world. Eclipse features sophisticated defense systems against missile strikes and laser-based anti-paparazzi technology.

Abramovich is the head of the Board of Trustees of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia.

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