Turkish businessman Muhsin Bayrak said on March 16 that his company was preparing to submit a bid by March 18 to buy English football club Chelsea, but would want the blessing of sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich for any deal.
In an interview with Reuters, Bayrak said his AB Group Holding company was notified by the British government - which assumed oversight of the Premier League club after it targeted Abramovich with sanctions - that any bids should be filed by March 18.
Bayrak said he expected bids for Chelsea to hover around 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion), roughly half the 2.2 billion pounds he says his company was prepared to pay Abramovich in the days before the oligarch and team owner was hit by sanctions tied to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Chelsea's market value should reflect the fact that the club recently lost sponsorship contracts, he told Reuters.
"The situation has changed since it was transferred to the government," Bayrak said.
Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 for a reported 140 million pounds ($184 million) and has owned the club through its most successful era.
Some Turkish media have questioned whether Bayrak's company, which has interests in construction, real estate and crypto currency, has the financial firepower to buy Chelsea, saying the businessman was possibly seeking publicity.
Bayrak denied this and said he had the necessary funds. "We will make the application by Friday [March 18]," he said at his Istanbul office.
Bayrak said he had 1 billion pounds in cash available and could easily take out loans if a larger amount was needed.
In addition to cash, his initial offer to Abramovich included $400 million worth of the company's own crypto currency and transferring ownership of certain real estate projects.
"Our companies are flirting," Bayrak said. "We're not just talking about Chelsea but about partnering on projects."
Abramovich's spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Britain's Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport was unable to comment. While not directly involved in the sale process, the government would issue a licence for the sale if it is happy with the conditions.
Before being sanctioned by Britain, Abramovich had said he would sell the London club, but it is now operating under a special government licence and the Premier League board has disqualified him as a club director.
Abramovich was also among several Russian billionaires added to a European Union blacklist this week.
Bayrak said he planned to meet Abramovich in person later this week in Turkey to get his blessing for any deal. According to Bayrak, the two men first spoke by phone about a possible deal late last month and met in Istanbul about two weeks ago.
A jet linked to Abramovich was in Istanbul earlier this week and was also in Turkey from March 5-12, according to FLIGHTRADAR24 data.
The AB Group chairman credited his business associate Barbaros Sağdıç, a Turkish architect who has been involved in projects in Russia and has connections in the Russian business community, with helping the company establish a link to Abramovich.