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5 things you probably didn't know about Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich

Rohith Nair
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Top 5 / Top 10
164.30K   //    Timeless

Roman Abramovich – the man known for revolutionizing football in the 21st century and changing the financial climate of the Premier League and the European transfer market. The billionaire who bought Chelsea Football Club and turned it onto a force to reckon with in both England and Europe. The man known for sacking managers if they are not up to the task.Everyone knows all these facts about one of the richest men in the world. But how did he amass his wealth and what other details of his life are not very well known to the public? We list a few things (some of which we learned from The Times piece on the Russian oligarch). 

#1 Abramovich was orphaned aged two

Roman Abramovich

Roman Arkadyevich Abramovich was born in 1966 to a poor Jewish family in what was then the Soviet Union. But tragedy struck even before he was a year old. He lost his mother Irina when she died during a medical procedure. Before his third birthday, he lost his father Arkady when he was accidentally killed at a construction site where he was employed. 

Roman did not have any brothers or sisters and was orphaned aged two. It was his uncle Leib, Arkady’s brother, who took him in. Roman grew up in Ukhta, a town famous for oilfields and mines where political prisoners were put to work in average temperatures are below 0°C.

Only after he turned seven was he sent to Moscow to live with his grandmother (and later with Abram, another uncle) in the hope that living in the city would help him get a proper education and find a better way of life. 

#2 His first entrepreneurial venture was selling stolen fuel

Roman Abramovich money

Aged 18, after he studied at the Gubkin Institute of Oil and Gas and the industrial institute in Ukhta, Abramovich was called up for military service. At the time, the Soviets were fighting a war in Afghanistan, but Abramovich joined late enough to avoid having to serve in the war-torn country.

But it was in the army where Abramovich would learn the tricks of the trade to make himself a lot of money.

Nikolai Panteleimonov, a friend of his in the army, explained how Abramovich devised a cunning scheme to make some easy money. He made a deal with delivery drivers to allow him to draw fuel from the vehicles’ fuel tanks. Abramovich would then sell this fuel to other drivers at a discount. Of course, all drivers were in on the scheme and it was a win-win for all parties involved. 

“He was head and shoulders above the rest when it came to entrepreneurship,” Panteleimonov said. “He could make money out of thin air.”

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Abramovich would then move to Moscow and build small businesses before he met Boris Berezovsky who helped him acquire a controlling interest in an oil company called Sibneft using several small firms set up for the purpose of buying stock. As a result, he took over a firm worth $2.7 billion by spending only $100.3 million!

It would soon be called “the largest single heist in corporate history”. 

#3 His yacht has its own missile defence system

Roman Abramovich yacht Eclipse
Roman Abramovich’s yacht Eclipse (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Although Abramovich is a Russian who lives in London, he spends most of his time on his plane (a customised 767 jet from Boeing) or personal yacht. And the yacht is a thing of beauty.

At 162.5 metres, it is the second-largest yacht in the world (17.3 metres short of the largest in the world). Its estimated cost is €340 million and has two helicopter pads, two swimming pools, a total of 24 cabins for guests and even  a disco hall.

The yacht also has its own mini-submarine and a missile defence system! The yacht requires around 70 crew members for both operations and serving guests. 

#4 Abramovich spends 1.2 million on personal security

Roman Abramovich security

Being a rich businessman such as Roman Abramovich, you are bound to make a few enemies.

He is politically connected in Russia and also has a personal line to President Vladimir Putin, who he helped during his prime ministerial candidacy back in 1999. He also has many contacts at the Kremlin in Moscow.

Abramovich spared no expense on his personal security detail. He is reported to have spent more than £1.2 million a year by hiring 20 former soldiers to protect him in the UK – his bodyguards wherever he travels. 

#5 Abramovich initially wanted to buy Tottenham Hotspur

Roman Abramovich Tottenham White Hart Lane

Before Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea Football Club, he had first set his eyes on Tottenham Hotspur in north London. The club chairman Daniel Levy even confirmed the bid back in 2003. Abramovich had visited White Hart Lane and later expressed an interest in buying the club through an intermediary.

“Yes, we did have a meeting at his request because he wanted ENIC's perspective on the European football market,” Levy had said. “It is important to note however, that at no time did we discuss, either then or subsequently, his desire to acquire a Premiership club."

At the time, Levy didn’t think it was a serious bid and quoted an outrageous price just to get him off his back. Abramovich then decided it was not worth it and proceeded to buy Chelsea even though it cost him £60 million – £10 million more than Tottenham’s price. 

But in return, he had a developed stadium ready and also two hotels – a better bargain than buying Tottenham. Chelsea were also ready to sell because of the debts, which Abramovich duly paid off. 

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