Abramovich makes Chelsea almost debt free

LONDON: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich had erased virtually all of the Premier League club’s 340 million pounds (375.75 million euros) debt, according to the 2009 financial figures released yesterday.Russian billionaire Abramovich, who reduced the club’s debts by half last year, was reported to be owed the money as an interest-free loan, but that has now been turned into shares to make Chelsea all but debt free.

Chelsea claim Abramovich’s move “demonstrates the continuing commitment from the shareholder to the group” and it removes any fears of a financial meltdown if the tycoon, who bought the west London club in 2003, ever decided to walk away.

During his six-year reign, Abramovich had bankrolled massive spending in the transfer market which helped Chelsea win the Premier League in 2005 and 2006, but he has kept a tighter hold on the Stamford Bridge cheque book over the last year.

A statement from Chelsea read: “Following previous conversions of half of the debt, the remainder of the interest-free loans from the parent company, whose ultimate controlling party is Roman Abramovich, have been converted into equity making the group effectively debt free.”

The club’s chairman Bruce Buck said: “The club’s debt load has been reduced almost to nil in order to provide more long-term stability for the club.

“The reduction will also enable the club to comply with any regulations on debt levels which are being discussed by the football community.”

The Blues’ financial results revealed losses down to 44.4 million pounds (48.6 million euros), which included a compensation payment of 12.6 million pounds (13.9 million euros) to sacked former manager Luiz Felipe Scolari and three of his staff.

The losses announced by the club are down from 65.7 million pounds (72.6 million euros) last year and Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay said: “It is still our aim to be self-sufficient and we will achieve this by increasing our revenues as we continue to leverage off our brand.

“We are reducing our costs by controlling expenses, including salaries and wages.” — AFP

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