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Chelsea boss Abramovich: Orphans, oligarchs and those under the roof

  March in Moscow is still in the midst of a long thaw, and there are occasional winds blowing through the streets, but it’s hard to tell whether it’s bringing spring warmth or frost. Roman Abramovich has been waiting at a private club in Moscow for six hours, but the person he wants to meet, the man with eyes and hands, Boris Berezovsky, has not yet appeared. Abramovich was visibly agitated. He had come to send money to Berezovsky.
  ”In doing business in Russia, it’s not only important to have good relationships with people in the local government, but you also have to have some connections at the top who can take the necessary steps and provide Krysha,” he later faced in court. Abramovich said of the lawsuit with Berezovsky. Krysha means roof in Russian, and in this era, it has also been derived as a kind of protection that can shield you from the wind and rain. It was 1995, and Abramovich was only 28 years old. He was already the most promising new-generation giant in the Russian oil trading network, but if he wanted to further expand his business ambitions, he had to get Berezovs base’s help. In return, Abramovich needed to cover the cost of Berezovsky’s TV station, which totaled about $8 million. The number is also huge for Abramovich, but he has no other options.
  Twenty years later, on New Year’s Eve in 2015, the legendary singer Prince disembarked from a helicopter and set foot on Abramović’s luxury yacht, the Eclipse, which was parked on St. Barts Island. His guests put on a grand show. The following year, the great Paul McCartney performed the Beatles’ famous song “Wolverine” with the Killer Band, and then fireworks rose from the sea, and the wine flowed freely in the room, and the $490 million yacht was launched. voyage, giving the guests an intoxicating night flight journey.
  New Year’s Eve yacht parties have been Abramovich’s habit since 2010, and have hosted stars such as Beyoncé, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jay-Z and Orlando Bloom guest. Most of the time, the VIPs came and went without even having a face-to-face with the party host; or they would find out that they met Abramović only briefly and never saw him again. When Dasha Zhukova was still with Abramovich, she would naturally play the role of a good hostess and greet guests affectionately. But Abramovich? He had long since retreated silently into the background, a position he was more accustomed to.
  However, from the moment he bought Premier League giants Chelsea Football Club in 2003, Abramovich was doomed to no longer hide in the background, and he immediately became one of Russia’s most well-known oligarchs. Therefore, when Putin decided to send troops into Ukrainian territory, Abramovich inevitably became the most visible target of attack in the Western world.
From orphan to oligarch

  A longtime entourage once said that a qualified psychiatrist would have a great deal of deciphering pleasure from Abramović—if they could get him to open up. Abramović was an elusive man whose feelings, he said, were as obscure as their motives. The entourage believes it has something to do with Abramović’s troubled childhood.
  Roman Arkadyevich Abramovich was born in Saratov on the lower Volga in October 1966. He is the eldest son in the family, his mother is a music teacher, his father is a construction worker, and he lives a fairly stable life except for the lack of money. His birth was the hope for the future in this Jewish family, but like most other Soviet families during the Brezhnev period, the Abramovich family’s ability to resist risks was extremely poor, which means that changes could come at any time. . When he was one year old, his mother Irina became pregnant again and decided to have an abortion because she could not afford the support of the second child, but died of the abortion operation. Not long after, his father died unexpectedly on a construction site. Two-year-old Abramović was thus an orphan.
  His uncle and aunt took over his upbringing, and they took the young Abu to the windy northern industrial city of Ukhta, just over 300 kilometers from the Arctic Circle. When Abu was about seven years old, he was packaged and sent to Moscow, first with his grandmother and later with another uncle. Although displaced and dependent, his relatives did their best to provide him with the best possible life, nurturing him to be a “useful person”. He has always regarded Moscow as his home, Abramović later said, despite the constant claim that he had settled in London and threw himself into the embrace of British civilization.
  After graduating high school, Abramović entered the Ukhta Institute of Technology and was immediately drafted into the army. Although he tried to resume his studies after being discharged from the army at the age of 20, he did not finish his university courses, and in 1987 he plunged into the sea of ​​business.
  Many years later, his former comrade-in-arms Nikolai Pantremonov gave an interview to the Russian “Life” newspaper and described in detail how Abu found his first pot of gold in the army: he formulated They made a grand plan, wooed a group of transport truck drivers, and then used every method they could think of to secretly sell the “excess” oil in their cars at low prices. “Buyers and sellers were happy,” Pantremonov recalled. “He just had the brains of all of us, and he was able to sell it even for air.”
  Is it legal? ? of course not. Those plastic yellow ducks, dolls, chocolates, cigarettes and perfumes that he secretly bought and sold were still illegal at the time. In this way, when Gorbachev came to power and private trade was finally legalized in the Soviet Union, Abramovich used the 2,000 rubles given by his father-in-law when he got married as capital to open a small trading company. As ambition grew in deal after deal, the industries involved rapidly expanded from commodity products to oil refineries, pig pens and security companies. When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991 and state-owned enterprises were disintegrated and restructured into private ownership, Abramovich rose rapidly and became a new generation giant in Russia’s oil trading industry. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1992 for embezzling state assets, which may be one of the reasons why he was eager to get acquainted with Berezovsky. Becoming a big business man is entirely dependent on his relationship with Yeltsin.
  And then we go back to the scene at the beginning of the story, where Abramovich finally waited for Berezovsky in Moscow in March, and he paid $8 million to be the latter’s protégé and partner, and then they each paid “Lending” $100 million to the government in exchange for all the shares of the former large state-owned Siberia Oil Company. By the time Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, Siberia Oil was valued at $15 billion and he was one of the richest men in the world.

  Berezovsky brought Abramovich into Yeltsin’s inner circle. According to many Russian and Western media reports, Abramovich has maintained a very close relationship with the top management since then, especially Yeltsin’s daughter Tatyana. They say he has become almost the “money bag” of the Yeltsin family, and he and Berezovsky were also the biggest contributors to Yeltsin’s ability to retain the presidency in 1996. And since then, they have gained more favor from the Kremlin.
  But Abramovich remains a quiet, cautious man. During the Yeltsin era, the pushy Berezovsky became almost synonymous with the Russian oligarchs. In the Putin era, Berezovsky publicly fell out with him and was eventually forced into exile, while Abramovich took over his assets (including the other half of Siberia Oil) and contacts in Russia. became one of the oligarchs closest to Putin. But he continued to hide in the background, he was always the one who didn’t want to go under the roof of the sun.
  Until football brought him a grand love at first sight.
Chelsea roof

  In 2002, Abu found that football games appeared more and more frequently in his life. When work meetings brought him to different cities in Europe, he went to see more and more football games. “There’s always so much, so much emotion on the court, and I just said to myself, I want to be a part of it,” Abramovich told Forbes in 2016. “In hindsight, considering To the extent that owning a club can have such a big impact on my public image, I probably should have made a different choice, but watching those games at the time, I just wanted to be one of them.”
  Chelsea were already in a cash flow crisis at the time Among them, they looked for investors for 18 months without results, and Tottenham Hotspur had met with Abramovich before, trying to get the Russian oligarch to take over 29.9% of the team’s shares, But what Abu wants is not shares, but control of the team. The next day, Abramovich met with then-Chelsea director Mark Taylor, and immediately transferred £60 million to the opponent’s account. The dust has settled and the total value of the acquisition is £140 million.
  Before he joined Chelsea in 2003, the Blues at Stamford Bridge were a strong team, but it was half a century ago that they last won the domestic top flight, and as for conquering Europe, that is even less likely thing. Abramovich brought seemingly unlimited money, he drastically changed the ecological environment of Chelsea and even European football, he made Chelsea the Champions League champion, many Blues players and fans will regard Abramovich as “the best” boss”. During this journey, the person under that roof also becomes someone else’s roof.
  It was the honeymoon period of Abramovich’s relationship with Britain. With the help of the ardent and charming Dasha Zhukova, his cruise ships and private jets have become almost a symbol of British entertainment star proving his status. In those days, Russian oligarchs were addicted to buying property in the UK. Among them was Berezovsky, who fled into exile in the UK in 2001, and he and his associates sought political asylum in the UK mainly because of their opposition to Putin; the opposite was represented by Abramovich, an oligarch close to Putin, His act of buying property in the UK is more of a show of self-promotion and achievement than an investment. People call this trend “London Grad”, and it is obvious that London has become the second home of Russians.
  Over the years, his relationship with Britain gradually deteriorated. He and Dasha divorced in 2017, and those superstars are no longer present at the once-famous yacht party. Amid growing diplomatic tensions between London and Moscow, the U.K. has refused to give any more money to the 2018 poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a “double agent” and former top Russian operative who was sheltered in the U.K. Abramovich issues investor visas. Labour MP Chris Bryant later revealed in a speech to parliament that in 2019 the Home Office had listed Abramovich as a “suspicious person” in an internal document.
  But Abramovich did not miss important occasions for Chelsea. Abramovich made two surprise visits to London last autumn, the second time in November, when he hosted Israel’s new president, Isaac Herzog, at Stamford Bridge, who was generous with his praise. He said Chelsea “demonstrated a sense of public responsibility as a team that will lead to a more tolerant and better future” under Roman Abramovich.
  He didn’t miss Chelsea’s 2021 Champions League win over Manchester City in Bordeaux, and he was there this year when Chelsea beat Palmeiras for the Club World Cup in Doha.
  He is no longer at Stamford Bridge as often as he did in the beginning, chatting with coaches and players after training, and Chelsea’s new manager Tuchel even had his first face-to-face conversation with Abramovich at the Champions League winning ceremony. But those who are familiar with Chelsea will say that he will still intervene in the specific affairs of the team’s work. For example, Chelsea’s decision to hire and fire Lampard, and the appointment of Tuchel as the new coach, were all made by Abramovich. board. His chief assistant at Siberia, Marina Golanovskaya, who joined Chelsea’s management more than a decade ago, is the club’s chief executive, while Abramovich’s other old subordinate, Eugene Turnbaum is Chelsea’s team director. It is through them that Abramovich communicates decisions: “Those important decisions have to be made by Roman,” one source said. “Obviously, everything has to change now.”
  On March 10, the 117th anniversary of the founding of the Chelsea club, the United Kingdom announced sanctions on a series of Russian oligarchs, and Abramovich’s name was on the sanctions list. Four days later, the EU imposed similar sanctions. On March 12, the Premier League officially confirmed that Abramovich’s Chelsea director qualification was cancelled.
  There were rumors that Roman Abramovich wanted to sell Chelsea in 2018, when the asking price reached 2.5 billion pounds, but Chelsea officially denied this rumor. In 2022, Putin sent troops to Ukraine, sanctions came, and when Abramovich finally announced that he would sell Chelsea, the British government had not allowed him to do so.
  The British government has halted Chelsea’s plan to sell, while prohibiting it from transferring or lending players, renewing contracts with players, and not allowing them to sell new game tickets and merchandise. With the development of the situation, the team sponsors have also terminated their contracts with Chelsea. At one point, news came out that the money on Chelsea’s account was only enough for them to support them for 17 days.
  Chelsea defeated Lille on the road to advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League in a difficult situation. The next thing they will face is the dilemma of the Champions League game being played behind closed doors. Those Blues fans who followed the team to France away from the field shouted Abu’s name, complaining that their team’s boss was unfairly treated after the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, “convicted without trial” “.
  ”I can understand the fans’ deep feelings for the home team, but such behavior is completely inappropriate,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman; Chelsea coach Tuchel responded with a chuckle: “I think the British government should Caring about something more important than the voice of the fans.”

  In all this chaos, Abramovich never showed up.
  Tracking the whereabouts of billionaires isn’t difficult these days, with dedicated websites documenting the movements of every private jet and super cruise ship. The only problem is that with so many planes and cruise ships owned by a billionaire like Abramovich, it’s hard to tell if he’s even on one of them.
  In the early morning of February 24, 2022, Putin announced that Russia had decided to launch a special military operation in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Abramovich’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner flew from Nice in southern France to Moscow that day. Many people speculated that Abu was on that plane. After all, it sounded very intuitive. There was going to be a war and he was going home. But then another private jet in his name flew frequently between Moscow, Baku, Istanbul and Ankara. Another flew from Moscow to Dubai. Then the Dreamliner we mentioned at the beginning also arrived in Dubai.
  At the same time, there were always reports that Abramovich was in Belarus to help broker a ceasefire, so all of this flight action may not make sense.
  On March 14, it was said that Abu was seen in the VIP lounge of Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Reuters claimed that they had photos as evidence. A Gulfstream G-650 private jet under Abramovich then took off from here, made a brief stop in Istanbul and arrived in Moscow the next day. However, no one could confirm whether Abu was on the plane or not.
  For Abramović, “home” is an elusive concept. In May 2018, Abramovich missed watching the 2018 FA Cup final Chelsea match because the UK was slow to renew his UK visa. Shortly after, Abu became a naturalized Israeli citizen. In 2021, he became a citizen of the Portuguese Republic as a Hispanic Jew under the Nationality Law, which allows the naturalization of descendants of Hispanic Jews who were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula during the Medieval Inquisition. So now, he has triple citizenship of Russia, Israel and Portugal.
  Abramović’s most famous home is in London’s Kensington Palace Gardens, said to have 15 bedrooms, which he bought in 2009 for £90 million. During the honeymoon of his relationship with the UK, there was widespread speculation that he had settled in London, but those who knew him scoffed: “Romain is not settling anywhere,” one source said. “He has property in London, But he’s all over the world: South of France, New York, St. Barts, ski resorts, etc., and many more places you haven’t even heard of. If you had to ask me, I’d say he lives in Moscow. If you ask him, he might say he lives on his plane or cruise ship.”
  Immediately after the sanctions were announced by the UK and then the EU, Abramović’s assets were immediately targeted, and his Private jets and super cruise ships are of course the focus, after all, the Solaris and Eclipse alone are worth more than $1 billion. Both Solaris and Eclipse are currently on the high seas, Solaris has left the port of Barcelona and is currently heading towards Turkey at full speed, while Eclipse departs from Albania, the nearest port is currently Italy, where another The £440m super cruise ship owned by Russian oligarch Andrei Melnichenko has just been forcibly expropriated by the EU.
Puzzles wrapped in mystery

  Many people think that Abramovich’s wealth is pure luck, “just being in the right place at the right time, plus enough shamelessness”, but look back at Russia in the early 1990s and you will find Abramo What Vitch did was not too different from thousands of other small businessmen, “and I don’t think many of them would be angels,” said a friend of Abramović’s.
  So what turned Abramovich from orphan to oligarch? “Relationships,” the friend said, “he knew how to make connections and how to use them.”
  Early in Abramović’s business career, his partner was Eugene Schweder, who often Known for being thoughtful and responsive, those who know him say “his brain is like a computer” and he can instantly determine the appropriate value of an asset; Abramovich, on the other hand, is not good at numbers. , but the master of the relational field. More than 20 years later, Schweder’s total net worth is about 1.9 billion US dollars, which is not as good as the valuation of Chelsea, a football club.
  Even more telling: There are so many oligarchs who have been favored by the president during the Yeltsin era, but most of them ended up fighting Putin, like Berezovsky, and then either disappeared or were assassinated overseas. or choose suicide. Abramovich, a rare oligarch who received favorable treatment during both presidencies.
  He began selling assets in the Russian Federation at the end of 1999, dismantling his industrial empire. In 2000, he was elected as the chief executive of the Chukotka Autonomous Region in Russia’s Far East province with a population of less than 80,000 at the time, and invested 200 million US dollars to improve the lives of local people. He resigned from the post in 2008 and has since shown no political ambitions.
  Last year, he filed a lawsuit against HarperCollins to revise the misrepresentation of Abramović in Kathryn Belton’s book “Putin’s People”: the most notable of which was that it said He bought Chelsea to help Putin’s publicity in the Western world. He finally reached an agreement with the publisher and the author, not demanding compensation, but the publisher would revise the relevant passages. What he did not revise, however, was the book’s extensive description of his close supportive relationship with Putin. In fact, court records prior to their settlement clearly stated that “there is no dispute between the parties regarding the relationship between the plaintiff and President Putin.”
  After Putin’s “special military operation”, Abramovich showed great humanitarian concern for the Ukrainian people, even in his open letter to Chelsea fans, in which he renounced Chelsea’s personal debt to him In addition, it also stated that the “net proceeds” from the sale of Chelsea will be used to finance war victims in Ukraine. But he has never commented on Putin’s actions, let alone condemned them as the West wishes.
  His daughter, Sophia, grew up in the UK, in a very different way than her father. She shared bluntly on social media: “Putin wants to go to war with Ukraine, not Russia. The biggest and most successful lie in the Kremlin’s propaganda offensive is that most Russians support Putin.”
  But Abramovich is still that roof after all People down there, like at those parties at St. Barth, he lowered his presence until he was called by his name, he was almost in the background, and his feelings and thoughts were far away. known. Who is he? What role can he play? Can he have a say in Putin’s decisions? Who knows the answer to all this but Abramovich himself? He is, like Winston Churchill’s famous quote about Russia, a mystery wrapped in mystery.

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