‘False and damaging’: Roman Abramovich suing publishers & author after claims Putin ordered him to buy Chelsea

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is suing publishers HarperCollins and author Catherine Belton over “false claims” made in her book ‘Putin’s People’, which the billionaire says is causing damage to the club’s reputation.

Abramovich announced legal action on Monday against the publishers and Belton, who is the former Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times.

Belton's book ‘Putin’s People’, published last year, includes claims from fugitive investor and Kremlin critic Sergei Pugachev that Abramovich was personally ordered by President Vladimir Putin to buy Chelsea back in 2003.

“The book contains a number of false and defamatory statements about me, including about my purchase, and the activities, of Chelsea Football Club,” read a statement from Abramovich on the London club’s website.

“Today's action was not taken lightly. It has never been my ambition to gain a public profile and I have always been reluctant to provide commentary on any matters, including any false or misleading statements about me or Chelsea Football Club.

“However, it has become clear that the false allegations in this book are having a damaging effect, not only on my personal reputation, but also in respect of the activities of Chelsea Football Club.”

Abramovich has been Chelsea owner since 2003. © Reuters

Abramovich added: “My objective has been to avoid a legal case and my legal team has engaged with the publishers to try to find an amicable resolution.

“We have provided them with detailed information addressing the various false allegations about me in the book, including the repetition of allegations that have already been held to be false in the English High Court during previous legal proceedings.

"Unfortunately, these engagements were not successful, and the publisher has not corrected the false statements in the book.”

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Abramovich took over as Chelsea owner from Ken Bates in the summer of 2003 and set about transforming the club’s fortunes.

The Russian businessman is said to have invested well over £1 billion ($1.38 billion) in the ensuing years, which have been the most successful in Chelsea’s history.

Under Abramovich’s tenure the Stamford Bridge club have won five Premier League titles, five FA Cups, the UEFA Champions League and two UEFA Europa League crowns.

Chelsea have enjoyed consistent success since Abramovich bought the club. © Action Images via Reuters

“In contrast to the portrayal in the book, my ambition with Chelsea Football Club has always been to create world class teams on the pitch and to ensure the club plays a positive role in all of its communities,” Abramovich added in his statement.

“I believe our successes and activities over the years speak for themselves, including the trophies won, expansion of the Chelsea Academy, development of the Women's team and the Chelsea Foundation becoming the largest charitable organisation within the Premier League.

“It is my hope that today's action will not only refute the false allegations in regard to my own name, but also serve as a reminder of Chelsea's positive footprint in the UK. I have every belief that the courts will give me a fair hearing, as they have in the past.”

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Abramovich’s time as owner has not been without its problems. The 54-year-oligarch has not been seen at a Chelsea home game for more than two years, after suffering visa issues amid the fallout over the Skripal spy poisoning row between Russia and the UK.

Figures at Chelsea have frequently asserted that Abramovich remains fully committed to the club, as evidenced by the more than £200 million spending spree on new talent which the Blues owner sanctioned before the start of the current season.

Neither HarperCollins nor Belton – whose Twitter account is a steady stream of anti-Kremlin posts – have thus far responded to Abramovich’s statement.

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