A date has been set for Ken Bates's acrimonious departure from Chelsea to be heard in court. And if the club's former chairman carries through his threat to subpoena Roman Abramovich it could make for one of the most extraordinary court cases in years.
Bates is seeking a £2m settlement for what he claims is a breach of the contract he signed in the summer of 2003 following Abramovich's takeover. The case has now been listed in the High Court in London and is due to start on 13 January. Three weeks have been set aside.
As yet no witness statement has been taken from Abramovich and one problem Bates's legal team may face if they try to call the Russian to the stand is getting close enough to him to serve the papers in the first place.
The action is being taken against Chelsea who are acutely aware of the media circus which would surround it should Abramovich be forced to give evidence. Indeed, it may well be that Bates's lawyers are hoping that the publicity will force a settlement.
Bates was paid £17m for his shares in the club but signed a two-year deal to stay on as chairman.
When that ended he would then become life president. There was no salary linked to the contract but there were travel expenses and other allowances. However, Bates claimed he was marginalised once Peter Kenyon arrived as chief executive and is claiming his treatment constitutes a breach of contract for "unfair dismissal". Bates resigned as chairman in March, criticising the new regime.
Chelsea did make Bates an initial offer to settle the case but that was rejected. They continue to contest his claim.
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