Roman Abramovich has rejected an approach from Britain’s richest person to buy Chelsea Football Club.
Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire boss of multinational petrochemicals giant Ineos and a season-ticket holder at Stamford Bridge, expressed an interest in buying the club amid speculation the Russian oligarch could be prepared to sell.
But Ratcliffe’s advances, Sportsmail understands, were swiftly repelled, with Abramovich making it clear he has no intention of cutting ties with Chelsea despite his recent decision to shelve his new stadium plans in response to visa problems with the Home Office.
Chelsea refused to comment on Friday, stating only that Abramovich remains committed to a club he has owned for 15 years. Indeed, sources claim Ratcliffe’s is among a number of approaches that have been rejected, including from China.
Ratcliffe, who on Saturday was knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to business and investment, already owns a football club in Switzerland and has a personal fortune of more than double that of Abramovich.
The 65-year-old is a Manchester United fan but watches football at Stamford Bridge because it is close to his Chelsea home. Last season he was also a guest at the club’s Cobham training ground.
Last month’s Sunday Times rich list valued Ratcliffe at £21.05bn, compared to Abramovich’s £9.3bn valuation. The club would cost in excess of £1bn to buy. Ratcliffe’s company, Ineos, recorded sales of £45bn and employs more than 18,500 people in 22 countries.
‘Shelling out £2bn or so would seem like a drop in the ocean for Jim but at the moment he is torn about what to do,’ added a friend of Ratcliffe, who wished not to be identified.
Ratcliffe, who grew up in a council house in Failsworth — a small town between Manchester and Oldham — was asked in a recent interview about his education and replied: ‘I just played football, really. That’s all I was interested in.’
Seven months ago, Ratcliffe bought the Swiss club FC Lausanne-Sport for an undisclosed sum, as part of his company’s commitment to local sport and with a wish to see the club eventually playing in the Champions League.
A close ally of President Putin, Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 in a deal worth £140million. He took on the club’s debts, which were estimated at £80m, and has ploughed hundreds of millions into Chelsea, winning five Premier League titles and the Champions League.
But, following Theresa May’s crackdown on wealthy Russians living in Britain after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Abramovich, 51, has faced difficulties obtaining a UK visa.
He was reportedly incensed at not being allowed to watch Chelsea’s win over Manchester United in this year’s FA Cup final on May 19 and within days he applied for and gained Israeli citizenship.
Downing Street has made it clear Abramovich cannot work in Britain on his Israeli passport, although he can visit for up to six months at a time.
A plan was in place to demolish Stamford Bridge in two years but last week Abramovich announced that the £1bn redevelopment had been halted in retaliation for the hardline attitude of the Home Office.
Known as a supporter of the UK leaving the EU, Ratcliffe has had his own run-ins with the British Government.
In 2010, when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister, he moved his operations to Switzerland following a row over his wish to postpone VAT payments for six months.
The Treasury refused and for six years the Ineos headquarters remained in Switzerland. It returned to Britain two years ago, where it is based near Harrods in London’s Knightsbridge.
Ratcliffe is passionate about sport and believes primary schools should be legally required to make children run a daily mile as a means of combatting the obesity crisis.
He is providing financial backing for the Daily Mile Foundation charity and has said that one of his missions is to improve the country’s health.
A spokesman for Ratcliffe did not deny the industrialist’s interest in Chelsea.
‘We cannot comment on rumour and speculation,’ he said.