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Farewell to the Bridge? NAMA is reportedly in talks to sell off the Battersea Power Station - which could lead to Chelsea FC vacating Stamford Bridge. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Colour of Money

Abramovich 'in talks' to buy NAMA site for new Chelsea stadium

Roman Abramovich has been looking to increase the capacity of Stamford Bridge – but is now looking for alternative sites.

CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB’S billionaire owner Roman Abramovich is reportedly in talks with the National Asset Management Agency over one of its major London properties – potentially freeing it up to be used for a new Chelsea stadium.

The Sunday Telegraph yesterday reported that Abramovich had been in discussions with NAMA over the potential sale of the loans behind Battersea Power Station, as part of NAMA’s efforts to offload the historic site.

Real Estate Opportunities, the owner of the site, is operated by property developers Richard Barrett and Johnny Ronan – two of NAMA’s largest debtors through their Treasury Holdings operation.

REO admitted to the Telegraph that its loans could be called on demand at any time – meaning NAMA is effectively in control of the site, along with REO’s other major lender Lloyds.

Any move to convert the Battersea site for use by a football club would be extremely difficult, however – not least because it is largely inaccessibly by public transport, and still houses old industrial plants which would first need to be removed.

The Irish Independent today notes that Abramovich’s bid could remain attractive to NAMA and Lloyds, simply because they are keen to make sure that the historical site in west London is retained in a viable and ‘vibrant’ new use.

REO was last year granted planning permission to build 3,400 homes and 10 million square feet of offices and retail space on the site – plans the Telegraph believes could be adapted by Abramovich for a new ground.

Abramovich has been keen to try and increase the capacity of Chelsea’s current home, Stamford Bridge, since he took over the club in 2003 – and in recent months had taken the first steps to relocate the club.

Despite modern renovations – including the reconstruction of three of its four stands in the 1990s – it still only claims a capacity of around 42,500 – compared to Arsenal’s 60,000-seater Emirates Stadium, and Manchester United’s Old Trafford holds almost 76,000.

Last month he set about trying to buy the freehold to the Stamford Bridge site – currently owned by Chelsea Pitch Owners plc, which leases it back to the club on the condition that it plays its home games there under the ‘Chelsea FC’ name.

If the club was to move without first securing this freehold, it would have to change its name. Shareholders of Chelsea Pitch Owners have so far resisted any attempt to buy them out, however.

The purchase of Battersea by REO in 2006, for €532m, was one of the most prominent purchases of overseas property by Irish investors during the credit boom of the last decade.

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