Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Chelsea Just One Stop on Global Cash Route; from Moscow to Mauritius, Abramovich's Millions Are Making the World Go Round

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Chelsea Just One Stop on Global Cash Route; from Moscow to Mauritius, Abramovich's Millions Are Making the World Go Round

Article excerpt

Byline: JONATHAN PRYNN

THE long-running mystery over who really owns Chelsea football club - one of the great unsolved riddles of corporate Britain - has only deepened with the [pounds sterling]140million takeover bid from Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich.

Chelsea has long been regarded as one of the most opaque quoted companies, with a share register dominated by an extraordinary array of obscure island-based trusts and far flung investment companies.

The takeover is starting to flush out more details about the companies, but the real identities of the beneficial investors behind them remains - for now - as obscure as ever.

Documents lodged with Abramovich's lawyers, the Wall Street firm Skadden Arps, reveal that nine companies - including Mayflower Securities, which is controlled by chairman Ken Bates - have already accepted the offer.

All but one are thought to have bought their shares from the Guernsey-based company Swan Management, which last year sold half its 26.3 per cent stake to Bates and the other half to a variety of other investors.

The Takeover Panel and the London Stock Exchange have been investigating links between the shareholders.

The documents seen by the Evening Standard reveal that, in a highly unusual move, the share sale proceeds for eight of the shareholders are being paid into the same bank.

The account is at the Balloon Street, Manchester branch of the Cooperative Bank in the name of Chelsea's solicitors, Mark Taylor & Co.

Bates has a longstanding relationship with the Coop and Chelsea's deputy chairman, Michael Woodward, is a former senior executive at the bank.

The companies are based in a variety-of offshore tax havens, all well known for allowing investors to hide their identities behind "brass-plate" shell companies.

The biggest of the companies is Bates's Mayflower Securities, based in the British Virgin Islands, which has agreed to sell its 50 million shares - or 29.5 per cent of the 169.5 million shares in issue - with proceeds of [pounds sterling]17.5m being paid into the Manchester account.

The others are the Cypriot-based, Hyden Investments, with just over 10 million shares, the British Virgin Islands-based Catstone Limited (5 million shares), the Mauritiusbased Yellowpark (5. …

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