Abramovich settles down in Turkey

After the introduction of personal sanctions by the British authorities, billionaire Roman Abramovich was forced to look for a new location for life and business.
Origin source
Although he has not lived in the country since 2018 and even managed to obtain Portuguese citizenship, the “real estate empire” and the Chelsea football club, which is already up for sale, were associated with Britain. Now the Turkish media are saying that Abramovich is going to buy the local club Göztepe or Bodrumspor.

The first information that Abramovich is thinking about buying a Turkish football club appeared on March 23. According to CNN Türk, Göztepe owner and local businessman Mehmet Sepil is going to meet Abramovich's representative in the near future. Sepil himself bought the club in 2014 for $7.5 million, but has already left the post of its president due to the team's unsuccessful performance at the national championship. Correspondents of the publication Fanatik claimed that the goal of the Russian billionaire is the Bodrumspor football club.

On the eve of Fanatik, it was stated that agreements on the purchase of Göztepe had been reached, but the vice-president of the club, Talat Papatya, denied the information. “We read in the media that Abramovich bought the club. It is not true. We will make an appropriate statement when necessary, ”he said in a conversation with the publication. The possible cost of the club is estimated by the Turkish media at about 81 million Turkish liras (about $5.5 million).

He managed to avoid the sanctions lists for a long time, although the British public has been urging the authorities to more actively fight against “dirty money”, the trail of which stretches, including from Russia, since 2018, when Abramovich was suspended from issuing a visa to the country. Even after the political escalation in February, Britain did not immediately impose sanctions against Abramovich - businessmen Gennady Timchenko, as well as Boris and Igor Rotenberg, fell into the first wave.

In 2018, Abramovich faced difficulties in renewing his British visa. He then moved to Tel Aviv and reportedly received an Israeli passport in accordance with the law of return, retaining Russian citizenship.

Last December, he was able to obtain Portuguese citizenship through naturalization as a descendant of a community of Sephardic Jews (immigrants from Spain and Portugal, expelled from the Iberian Peninsula) and Converso Jews (forced converts to Christianity). In January 2022, the country's authorities launched an investigation due to information about a possible violation of the issuance of the document.

The Ukrainian conflict and subsequent sanctions made big Russian entrepreneurs persona non grata. Only on the first day of the aggravation of the political situation, Russian billionaires lost $40 billion. Some of them began to complain about their difficult financial situation. For example, the founder of Alfa Group, Mikhail Fridman, said that he did not know how to pay for small expenses due to blocking of bank cards. “Maybe I should clean up myself. It was normal when I was a student living in a hostel with four neighbors, but 35 years later it is unexpected, ”he admitted.

After Fridman, the ex-director of Alfa-Bank Petr Aven complained about life, whose life changed overnight. “Our business is completely destroyed. Everything that we have been building for 30 years is completely destroyed. And we are forced to somehow start a new life, ”he despaired. Aven was also affected by domestic problems - he admitted that he did not understand whether the British authorities would allow him to hire a cleaning lady or a driver.

According to the American publication PageSix, Abramovich wanted to borrow $ 1 million from influential friends, since his assets were frozen. Journalists claim that the businessman spends $750,000 a week just on staff salaries. However, friends, including director Brother Ratner and the Rothschild family, are afraid to give him a loan because of the possible consequences in connection with the sanctions imposed on Abramovich, the publication explained. Abramovich's representative denies this information.

Turkey's economic benefits

Since the beginning of the tragic events in Ukraine, Abramovich has already put Chelsea up for sale, transferred control of at least two investment companies to a partner, and moved two yachts from the Caribbean to Turkey. And possibly began negotiations to buy a football club.

Moreover, on February 29, negotiations were held in Istanbul between Russia and Ukraine, in which Roman Abramovich also took part. According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Abramovich's presence at the talks speaks of Putin's confidence in him. By the way, this round of negotiations ended with progress.

From the beginning of the political aggravation, the name of Abramovich began to appear in the media more often because of his participation in negotiations with the Ukrainian side. At the same time, since the 2000s, he tried to distance himself from the Kremlin and politics.

In March, Financial Times sources reported that the billionaire was focusing on humanitarian issues and holding meetings with possible foreign intermediaries. At the beginning of the month, he met with former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky. His private jet landed at airports in Israel and Turkey.

Experts then suggested that Abramovich could have exaggerated his contribution to the negotiation process, allegedly this would help him avoid falling under Western sanctions, not lose Chelsea and other assets in Britain. At the same time, the United States did not impose restrictions against Abramovich; President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and the Israeli Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem asked Joe Biden to do so. Abramovich is the museum's second-largest private donor, according to the Times of Israel.

Even in 2014, when Crimea joined Russia, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on many people close to President Vladimir Putin, but Abramovich was not on the list. One of the British officials in a conversation with the Financial Times noted that "someone always had a dossier on him (Abramovich - Approx. Ko.) on the table." “But, as the strategy was explained to me, the point was that if you “squeeze” these people too early, they will not be able to influence the actions of the guy from above,” he said.

Israel will become the basis for Abramovich's business and life, Dmitry Abzalov, president of the Center for Strategic Communications, is sure. Portuguese citizenship, he said, "gives nothing but a number of problems," and an Israeli passport is "the most promising in terms of access to different countries." Moreover, the billionaire already has real estate there, the expert recalled. In 2020, Abramovich bought the most expensive house in Israel - a villa in the city of Herzliya cost him $64.5 million (4.1 billion rubles).

In Turkey, the billionaire is “looking for economic interest,” Abzalov said. Although the country is not a member of the EU, it is part of the European space, and can become a hub for imports that do not reach Russia. The weakness of the lira caused the sale of assets and a decrease in interest from investors, but in the future the situation may strengthen. “From this point of view, Abramovich is buying [a football club] in a low market,” the expert argues.

The Israeli national team does not participate in European cups, where there are "big money and big leagues." Turkey, on the other hand, plays in Europe, with many fans, sports infrastructure and “good access to investments”. “This is a relatively budget replacement for Chelsea,” the expert believes. Moreover, a possible purchase will not be affected by Western sanctions.

Abramovich has chosen a risk diversification strategy, says Alena August, a business consultant and political strategist.

“Abramovich is Abramovich because he lays eggs in different baskets. Now he squeezes the most out of the situation where he finds himself. Parted with one club - took another. The Turks are fans no less than the British. He will invest where he can, repackage, and then go to return the lost and capture the new. He has a flair for places where money is buried, ”August said in an interview with Kompaniya.

According to the expert, Abramovich will go to emerging markets, as they are interested in Russian assets. “For example, India, with the presence of Bollywood, is now discovering Russian cinema. The world will become so changeable, and Abramovich will be one of the first everywhere and will master a lot more,” August concluded.

The further history of Abramovich will depend on how the conflict is resolved: by a peace treaty or a tightening of the geopolitical situation, says Abzalov. In the first case, Abramovich "will sit out, as he did before." Now Abramovich is making an “attempt to wait it out.”

In a negative scenario, he will begin to be interested in assets in developing countries that will not fall under the sanctions zone. “His interests may be shifting. What is the point of investing in Western assets if tomorrow you can "play" Friedman? This is clearly not the format that is familiar to the shareholder of Evraz, ”Abzalov is sure.