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U.K. approves sale of Russian oligarch Abramovich’s Chelsea soccer club

Chelsea has been operating under a special government license while U.S. bank Raine Group managed its sale. (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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LONDON — The British government approved the sale of Chelsea Football Club months after it placed sanctions on Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, the longtime owner of the London-based team.

“Last night the Government issued a licence that permits the sale of @ChelseaFC,” Nadine Dorries, the British cabinet minister responsible for sports, tweeted Wednesday morning. “Given the sanctions we placed on those linked to Putin and the bloody invasion of Ukraine, the long-term future of the club can only be secured under a new owner.”

Dorries said the British government was “satisfied the proceeds of the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or other sanctioned individuals.” Abramovich, who British officials note has ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, was placed under sanctions in March after London came under pressure to punish Kremlin-linked oligarchs.

The Premier League, Britain’s top soccer division, said late Tuesday its board had approved the sale of Chelsea to Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly and members of the Clearlake Consortium for roughly $5.3 billion. It said it had “undertaken the necessary due diligence” for the sale.

Boehly, 48, has strong ties to the D.C. region. He is a Northern Virginia native who attended Landon School in Bethesda starting in sixth grade and graduated in 1991. He was a star wrestler who helped the Bears win two Interstate Athletic Conference championships. In his senior year, Boehly was named team MVP and a Washington Post All-Met honorable mention in the 135-pound category (though in the newspaper, his name was incorrectly spelled “Buehle”).

Landon said Boehly, a former member of its board of trustees, is the largest benefactor in school history, though no specific data has been made public. In 2014, Landon dedicated the Boehly Family Wrestling Room.

Boehly also wrestled at William & Mary, from which he graduated in 1996. His wife, Katie Garrett Boehly, is a 1995 graduate of the school. In 2014, they founded William & Mary’s Boehly Center for Excellence in Finance. Six years later, William & Mary announced the couple would be major contributors to a $57 million project upgrading the athletic facilities.

Last fall, Boehly was caught in the middle of a power struggle for control of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Washington Spirit. The owner, Steve Baldwin, entered into exclusive negotiations to sell the team to Boehly even though Boehly’s bid was considerably less than the one submitted by co-owner Y. Michele Kang. Amid pressure from investors, players and fans, Baldwin sold the team to Kang early this year.

Abramovich made his money after the fall of the Soviet Union by acquiring billions of dollars in oil and other Russian state assets. He owned the west London club for 19 years, during which it won 21 trophies. He has since been spotted on the sidelines of international peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, although his exact role in the talks remains unclear.

“Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make … and it pains me to part with the club in this manner,” he said in March when announcing his decision to sell the soccer club.