Britain’s richest man, Jim Ratcliffe, has approached Roman Abramovich to discuss buying Chelsea Football Club after the Russian billionaire’s future in Britain was thrown into doubt.
Ratcliffe, 65, boss of petrochemicals giant Ineos, who is knighted today in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to business and investment, is understood to have offered about £2bn for the club.
It comes as Mr Abramovich, 51, struggles to renew his UK visa in the wake of Theresa May’s crackdown on rich Russians living in Britain after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.
The Chelsea boss was reportedly incensed at not being allowed to watch his club play in this year’s FA Cup Final on May 19 and within days he applied for and was granted Israeli citizenship.
Downing Street has made it clear that he cannot work in Britain on his Israeli passport, although he can visit for up to six months at a time.
Mr Ratcliffe topped this year’s Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated wealth of £21bn. Ineos’s annual turnover is about £45bn and it employs more than 18,500 people in 22 countries.
It is understood that Mr Abramovich has rejected the offer. Chelsea said only that its Russian owner – worth around £1.3bn – remains committed to the club, which he bought in 2003 in a deal worth £140m.
Mr Ratcliffe is a Chelsea season ticket holder – although he also supports Manchester United – and already owns a football club in Switzerland. Seven months ago, he bought the Swiss club Lausanne-Sport for an undisclosed sum as part of his company’s commitment to local sport.
He owns a house near Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge base in South-West London. The stadium was going to be demolished and replaced but last week Mr Abramovich announced that the £1bn plans were being shelved in retaliation to the hardline attitude of the Home Office.
Mr Ratcliffe’s spokesman said: ‘We cannot comment on rumour and speculation.’