The Ukraine conflict and Russian sanctions have forced Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s hand, with the Russian billionaire forced to sell the club he has owned for two decades.
The motivation for the deal has been intensely debated, with some arguing Abramovich is looking to protect his best-known asset from Russian sanctions, the identity of a prospective buyer has emerged: Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss.
The deal was approved by the UK government on May 25th. Wyss is part of a consortium that is led by American Todd Boehly, who owns the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.
Wyss told the media in March he’d been sounded out about a potential purchase, telling Swiss tabloid Blick “like all the other oligarchs, he is panicked. Abramovich is currently trying to sell all his villas in England. He also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly.”
Who is Hansjörg Wyss and how did he make his billions?
Wyss, 86, was born in Bern in 1935 and later moved to Zurich where he studied at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
He came from relatively modest beginnings, with his father a calculator salesman and his mother a writer. His sister, Hedi Wyss, is also a writer.
Wyss later relocated to the United States, where he has lived since the 1960s.
German magazine Welt notes he spent much of his life “as a phantom”, rarely giving interviews and living incognito on a large property in the US state of Wyoming.
Like many billionaires Wyss has several sources of income, although his main money spinner was the medical device company Synthes.
Wyss founded Synthes in the 1970s and oversaw its growth, before selling it for approximately CHF20 billion to pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson in 2012.
How much money does Wyss have and can he afford Chelsea?
Despite his significant income, Wyss’ net worth is estimated at ‘only’ CHF5.3 billion as at 2022.
Wyss has donated hundreds of millions of francs over the years to a variety of causes, including climate and conservation initiatives, while he also makes significant contributions to universities like Harvard and Cambridge.
Forbes magazine described Wyss as “one of the most philanthropic people in the world”.
While that might sound like an awful lot of money, it is unlikely Wyss can afford Chelsea on his own, which is why he has become part of a consortium to buy the club.
Wyss has admitted as much, with the Bernese telling Blick he has asked Abramovich to lower the asking price.
“We do not yet know the exact sale price. I can very well imagine myself joining Chelsea with partners. First I have to look carefully at the conditions.
“I certainly wouldn’t do such a thing alone. If I buy Chelsea, it will be with a consortium of six to seven investors.”
While the exact identity of the others remains unclear at this point, Blick reports Todd Boehly, owner of baseball side the LA Dodgers is likely to be one member of the ownership consortium.
How much did it cost?
While Abramovich bought Chelsea for roughly CHF180 million in 2003, the club has been valued as high as CHF4.9 billion.
Given the amount of money necessary to keep a club running – Abramovic is believed to have invested CHF1.8 billion into the club over the years.
According to estimates made in May 2022, the total price was roughly CHF5 billion francs.
The money from the sale will not flow to Abramovich, but will instead sit in a frozen bank account.