How Arkady Abramovich Almost Went in his Famous Father’s Footsteps…

While Denmark- most of Denmark- was liberated from the Nazi plague together with the rest of Europe on the fifth of May, 1945 one small island remained occupied by foreign forces. Bornholm’s place in the Baltic Sea is strategically important, south of Sweden and north of Poland and Germany, which explains why the Soviet troops who liberated the island were ordered to stay until the 5th of April, 1946, almost a year after the war in Europe had ended. When the Soviet troops finally left it was to the sound of canon salutes, and since then no Russians have held a position of power in the Kingdom of Denmark. This could however have changed in December 2010.

Like lightning from a clear sky, the Danish news outlet on the first of December 2010 reported that Roman Abramovich’ oldest son, the 17 year old Arkadiy, had visited the capital of Denmark in order to meet Carsten Koch, CEO at Lønmodtagernes Dyrtidsfond (LD) who owns 30% of the shares in the football club FC Copenhagen.

The media were quick to speculate on the reason for this meeting, and while Koch refused to reveal whether or not Abramovich wanted to buy LD’s shares in Denmark’s most successful football club, it was assumed that the young Abramovich aimed at expanding the family’s football traditions.

A year after Roman Abramovich got control over Chelsea, his oil company Sibneft, a company he later sold before it was renamed to Gazprom, became the sponsor of CSKA Moscow. This caused him problems, as UEFA doesn’t allow a single person to have interests in multiple clubs competing in European tournaments.

Some pundits found this experience to be the reason behind Arkadiy’s proposal to Copenhagen, as the club could effectively come under Abramovich and Chelsea’s control without breaking any rules. The assumption was that Copenhagen would effectively become Chelsea’s farm club, and with millions of rubles it wouldn’t be difficult to completely dominate the Danish league, and thus become a regular in the Champions League. This could give the players experience at the highest level, something that was difficult to get at many of Chelsea’s smaller farm clubs, like for example Dutch side Vitesse. This theory was shot down by John Mann, Roman Abramovich’ spokesman, less than 24 hours after the first meeting, when he told Tipsbladet: “Roman Abramovich is not involved in this case. He has no interest in purchasing shares in Parken Sport & Entertainment [the company behind FC Copenhagen] or FC Copenhagen, and neither has he been contacted with the intention of this.”

Unlike other media, Tipsbladet suggested that Arkadiy wanted to buy FC Copenhagen in order to prepare for the day when he inherited the control over Chelsea.

A month and a half after the first meeting chairman of FC Copenhagen’s board, Hans Munk Nielsen stated that the Russian interest in the club had disappeared, and that he saw the case as closed: “There was a meeting eight weeks ago, and since then nothing has happened, so we see it as closed.”

This was however not how Abramovich and his people experienced the situation, as he told the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv the same day: “The shareholders of Parken still haven’t replied yes or no to the offer. What they did was stupid, but we are still interested. We want to give the team a new chance, and we still think FC Copenhagen should reply to our offer.”

According to Abramovich, Nielsen had promised him to return to him after he had a chance to discuss the offer with the rest of the board and the shareholders, but he never did. Abramovich blamed Nielsen and Copenhagen for not taking him seriously, as well as only chasing easy money: “It was very unprofessional. They were more interested in earning easy money than to examine if it [the offer] could be good for the company and the club. To me it shows a lack of respect for the club and fans.”

Since the first reports of Abramovich’s interest hit the news the worth of the Parken Sport & Entertainment share rose by almost eight percent, something the board wanted to capitalize on. PS&E was later criticized by the Danish stock exchange for how they handled the case.

In March, four months after the first contact, new rumors on the Abramovich and Copenhagen link hit the news, as the Danish side was in London to play against Chelsea in the Champions League. The Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet wrote a story based on anonymous sources where they claimed that Abramovich and his advisors were meeting the former chairman of Copenhagen’s board Flemming Østergaard, something that was quickly denied from both sides.

After the Chelsea match, FC Copenhagen board member Aldo Petersen stated that Abramovich was still interested in the club, and that the meeting had in fact been scheduled except that Abramovich had cancelled, because he was tired of all the media attention, and that he wasn’t interested in a hostile takeover, which was the only way he could get control over the club.

Even though Abramovich could buy LD’s shares, two men were still in control of the majority of the shares, and they were not interested in selling the football club that they hoped they could turn into a profitable business. Erik Skjærbæk and Karl Peter Korsgaard Sørensen were the men blocking Abramovich from getting control over the Danish powerhouse. As one pundit wrote: “Arkady Abramovich is out as long as those two are in. That has the power struggle effectively revealed.”

Many people were frustrated by the stubbornness of Skjærbæk and Sørensen, and even though Petersen refused to criticize their strategy with the club’s development he pointed out that Abramovich was ready to spent €60 million on the club, money that could put even more ground between the club and its Scandinavian rivals and make it by far the biggest club in the Nordic countries.

Since the first contacts were made, Copenhaven have won two league titles and two cups. They have however only played in the Champions League once, and judging on the last two years, Malmö FF from Sweden have surpassed them as the leading Nordic club.

Arkadiy Abramovich hasn’t been involved with football since his failed attempt to take over FC Copenhagen. He has instead invested heavily in the extraction industry through his investment company ARA Capital Limited, the same industry that made his father a rich and powerful man, just like he has worked for the government controlled VTB Bank, who also owns Dinamo Moscow.


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