Russian billionaire versus Chelsea pensioner in shares battle

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The Independent Online

Roman Abramovich is advising a 74-year-old pensioner to seek the advice of a solicitor because he is stubbornly refusing to sell the 100 shares he owns in Chelsea Village, the company that formerly owned Chelsea Football Club.

The Russian oil billionaire, who has spent more than £200m to buy the London football club and a host of soccer superstars, is offering Alex Malcolm just £35 for his shares.

Mr Abramovich is entitled to do so because, having acquired the vast majority of Chelsea shares, he can now use section 429 of the Companies Act 1985 to force any reluctant shareholders to sell at a price he names.

"I paid £120 for them," says Mr Malcolm. "I hear that Mr Abramovich made £500m in just one deal. Now he's forcing me to sell my shares for 35 quid! It's like daylight robbery. And, after all the money he's spent on players, it's very insulting."

In a letter from Michael Cunningham, managing director of Citigroup Global Markets, Mr Malcolm was warned: "If, by 25 September 2003, you have not accepted the offer in respect of all your holding of Chelsea Village shares, all shares will be compulsorily acquired by the offeror."

Mr Malcolm has been fighting to keep his cherished Chelsea shares since a letter arrived at his home near Southampton in August. It was from Chelsea main board director Richard Creitzman, explaining that he had six weeks to go to court to stop Mr Abramovich seizing his stake. Mr Creitzman's letter advised him: "You may wish to seek legal advice."

"I'm not giving in but I simply can not afford to go to court," Mr Malcolm said yesterday.

"I was at Stamford Bridge long before Mr Abramovich was born," says Mr Malcolm. "I was born two miles from the ground. My grandfather first took me to see Chelsea play in 1936, when I was seven. It was so crowded I had to sit on his shoulders to see the game.

"I was at Chelsea just after the war, when the first Russians arrived. I was in a crowd of more than 100,000 for the game against Moscow Dynamo.

"Today, my two children and four of my grandchildren - including the youngest, 15-year-old Rebecca - are now Chelsea fans. This football club is in the Malcolm family's blood. Cut my head off and you'll see CFC is printed right through me.

"I thought my £120 had bought me a little bit of Chelsea. I own the penalty spot. And I wanted to own it for the rest of my life. Then leave it to my children. Now they're trying to snatch it back. It's wrong, bloody outrageous. If he sends me a cheque, I'll send it back.

"I'm prepared to do only one deal with Mr Abramovich, which will guarantee that I can stay part of Chelsea for the rest of my life.

"I will compromise if he offers two season tickets for life. And I mean, for life. Somehow, though, I suspect the price might be too high even for Mr Abramovich. One ticket's for me. But the other's for my son Glenn. And he's only 48!"

Only one of Mr Malcolm's five grandchildren is not a Chelsea supporter. Twenty-one-year-old Stuart is a Manchester United fan.