At the beginning of May, FC Chelsea confirmed that Roman Abramovich had agreed on the terms of the sale of the club to a new group of owners. The names of Todd Pain, Mark Walter, Hansoyorg Vis, who are representatives of the investment firm Clearlake Capital, were called.
However, as the investigators say, in fact, Chelsea passes into the possession of Leonid ‘Len’ Blavatnik. He is a little-known figure, even in the former USSR, where he brought down his capitals and Russia, where these capitals reached billions of dollars and from where they were withdrawn offshore.
This is a 63-year-old native of Odessa, is the richest citizen of Britain, whose fortune is estimated at $35.4 billion. Blavatnik is a partner of Vekselberg and Deripaska in SUAL-Rusal-Norilsk Nickel, Friedman and Khan in TNK-BP, among his possessions is the Exess-Renova Group.
The intercession of the Ukrainian authorities facing the international community did not help Roman Abramovich avoid sanctions. And he started selling off assets. Leonid Blavatnik was among the buyers. What is characteristic is that for some reason neither British sanctions in particular nor Western sanctions in general apply to him.
As for the purchase of Chelsea, the figure of the new owner is being closed by Clearlake Capital, which is an American investment firm registered in California. Representatives of Clearlake refused to answer a list of detailed questions submitted by the leading sports publication The Athletic regarding investments in Chelsea. It is not surprising if you read at least the official certificate about this company originally from the USA.
Clearlake Capital Group is a California—based venture capital and private equity firm investing in telecommunications, healthcare and industrial companies. This company is located in Santa Monica, California, USA, and was founded in 2007 by Behdad Egbali.
The company provides long-term capital to businesses that can benefit from Clearlake’s approach to operational improvement, OPS. It usually invests in software and technology services, industry, energy and consumer technology. Clearlake manages assets worth more than $10 billion.
That is, the company simply invested someone’s capital in Chelsea, closing the owner of this capital with his name. The Athletic never retrieved the last name of the person who invested the money in the purchase. But it quoted the words of former chief economist and investor of Goldman Sachs Jim O’Neill:
“If someone had told me three months ago that Chelsea would be bought for 2.5 billion pounds with additional liabilities of 1.75 billion pounds, I would have said that you smoke what you shouldn’t smoke.”
Which makes it clear that the transaction is completely meaningless from a business point of view. This is also confirmed by quoting an unnamed American investor in European football:
“Unless you radically change the business model by cutting costs and turning them into a club that sells more, Chelsea will not be able to become an ordinary private investment. It’s a vain investment.”
Let’s allow ourselves another quote from The Athletic:
“For better or worse, the fate of Chelsea will be more closely linked with Clearlake, even if it is the chosen figurehead and frontman of the post-Abramovich era.”
The press is very cautious in its statements, but the quoted materials of the profile publication transparently hint that the Chelsea deal may be in fact a fiction, a cover-up, Abramovich simply handed over his favourite toy to other hands for safe keeping. And Leonid Blavatnik will keep it, for some reason all these years happily avoiding sanctions and even the interest of financial authorities in both the UK and the USA.
Such blindness regarding Blavatnik looks especially strange in the light of how exactly he earned his fortune. Although Leonid Blavatnik was born in the USSR, in 1978 the family of the future billionaire decided to emigrate to the United States, where he, along with citizenship, received a new name – Leonard. Later, the passport of a US citizen was added to the passport of Great Britain and Russia. All this did not prevent Leonard Blavatnik from receiving the title of Knight Bachelor.
As for business, although Leonard Blavatnik started doing it in the USA, he earned billions in Russia. According to the official version, in 1987 Leonid Blavatnik accidentally met his university friend Viktor Vekselberg, who worked in Russia, at an oil industry event. They decide to start a business and create a joint Russian-American enterprise. In 1990, the Renova enterprise was established on the basis of Soviet aluminum mills privatised by partners, which began exporting Russian raw materials to the United States.
The business was developing and Blavatnik decided on new deals:
- 1994 – purchase of shares of the Vladimir Tractor Plant (later sold in parts);
- 1996 – participation in the creation of the Siberian-Ural Aluminum Company (SUAL) and receiving 47.5% of its shares;
- 1997 – together with Viktor Vekselberg and Mikhail Fridman 40% of the shares of the Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) were acquired;
- 1998 – purchase of another 50% stake in the oil giant.
Many experts consider the purchase of TNK to be one of the most profitable deals of Leonid Blavatnik: firstly, he took the post of chairman of the board of directors in the new corporation; secondly, in 2003, it was on its basis that the TNK BP oil holding began operating.
In 2002, Blavatnik and Vekselberg became co-owners of a financial group including Alba Alliance Bank and Sovlink Corporation. In 2003, the partners created a “Unified Trading Company” (ETC), whose activities were limited to the monopoly sale of caustic soda to Russian industrial enterprises. In 2007, after the merger of SUAL with Russian Aluminum, the Rusal Corporation was formed, with Blavatnik on the board of directors.
In 2012, he invested about $ 45 million in one of the largest film studios in Russia – the company “Amedia”. The “CTC Media” is gradually moving into its assets.
Leonid Blavatnik earned almost all his billions in Russia. Moreover, judging by the names of the partners and the names of the assets, this money is by no means distinguished by the purity that is so loved in the United States and Great Britain. Therefore, the fact that Blavatnik has somehow avoided the interest of the relevant financial authorities of these countries all these years is very alarming.
But there are a few more interesting facts that add strangeness to this “blindness” of the authorities. Leonid Blavatnik maintains constant contacts with the political elite of Russia, in particular, with Anatoly Chubais and Sergei Stepashin. He even sponsored Stepashin’s visit to Washington, hosted a dinner in his honour, which was attended by Washington politicians.
In addition, which is even more strange, a Russian-American-British citizen, Sir Len Blavatnik, actively sponsors the election funds of Republican congressmen from the state of New York. It is very confusing in light of the figure of former US President Donald Trump and the accusations against the latter in cooperation with the special services of the Russian Federation. This fact is important to us in the sense that we consider the figure of Blavatnik in the light of the absence of his name in the sanctions lists.
By the way, Blavatnik’s friend, Chubais, also somehow escaped sanctions and inexplicably ended up outside Russia, where he also conducts very strange activities, regularly meeting with representatives of the US Presidential Administration and representatives of the British government.
To all this, it should be added that Blavatnik’s American assets, among which the leading place is occupied by the investment firm Access Industries and the third largest record company in the world – Warner Music, feel quite normal. No one is interested in the origin of the money with which they were bought, as well as the origin of the money with which Leonid Blavatnik’s real estate was bought.
And to all this is added the purchase of the Chelsea football club from another Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich. Who also has some very strange history with the sanctions lists – he gets listed, then he doesn’t get there, then Volodimir Zelenskyy suddenly stands up for him…
How does he manage to avoid sanctions? What is the mystery of the citizen Leonid ‘Len’ Blavatnik?