former chief executive Trevor Birch revealed that the deal for Roman Abramovich to buy the club back in 2003 only took 10 minutes.
As well as detailing the super-quick time it took for the Russian to take over, Birch also spoke of how the Blues spent over €160 million on new players in the first six weeks after Abramovich’s arrival.
He told the London Evening Standard: “Abramovich didn’t speak English [when the pair first met]. There was an interpreter. I wasn’t totally convinced he was the real thing. I had googled him but he just didn’t appear anywhere.
“Nobody knew anything about him. So I wasn’t sure whether it was a scene from Candid Camera and that suddenly Jeremy Beadle was going to jump out at me.
“But we did the deal in 10 minutes, nothing like that had ever happened. I don’t think people appreciated what a game changer it was. I suggested he spent £20m [€23m] on players. He spent £140m [€165m] in six weeks, the biggest change I’ve seen in English football.”
Birch had hoped to advice Abramovich on the right approach to take, and advocated steady investment and lower ticket prices, but his ideas were ignored and he soon departed the club.
He continued: “I said to [Abramovich]: ‘Look, you’re living every supporter’s dream. Why not allow them to share in that dream and therefore, at one fell swoop, just reduce the season-ticket prices? So it announces your arrival with a bang and supporters from every other club would wish they had an owner like you.’
“What I thought Chelsea should try was to become everybody’s favourite second team. There are certain ways that you need to act to gain that kind of affection from people. I was voted down. They said, ‘We’re going to run it as a business, break even and be the biggest club.’
“How ironic given the hundreds of millions in losses. The stance he took rubbed the neutrals up the wrong way.