Interview

Eugene Tenenbaum explains Roman Abramovich’s motivations as owner: to win and to help out

In a recent interview with Forbes, Chelsea director Eugene Tenenbaum discusses the thinking behind Roman Abramovich's purchase of the club in 2003 and his motivations as owner in the 17 years since...

The unchartered territory of the current coronavirus pandemic has pushed us all to ask questions of ourselves, individually and as a collective, as to what we can do to play our part. For the vast majority, staying at home to help limit the spread of the virus has been the primary priority, while those on the frontline have shown heroic self-sacrifice to lead the healthcare response in hospitals, care homes and the wider community.

Football has also sought to contribute to the response and Chelsea in particular, guided by club owner Roman Abramovich, have launched a number of initiatives during the crisis aimed at supporting our staff, our fans and the wider community.

As manager Frank Lampard indicated in a TV interview this weekend, ‘I’m really proud of Chelsea’s reaction. It comes from the owner and then filters through the club.’

Club director Eugene Tenenbaum has also recently discussed the thinking behind Abramovich’s decision-making during this crisis, linking it to one of his main objectives when purchasing the club 17 years ago - to help out.

‘He did not want extra stress around the club and community in such a trying time,’ Tenenbaum told Forbes this week, referencing the recent club update that confirmed there were no plans for any general redundancies or furloughs for our full-time staff and that casual workers would be compensated as if matches had been played while football remains on pause.

‘He is an entrepreneur,’ Tenenbaum continued. ‘He likes challenges. Once he gets focused, it’s not luck. He likes to understand what a project is about and involve himself for the long-term. He likes a drive for results, he likes to win and he wants to help out.’

The article explains that Abramovich’s decision to purchase a football club in 2003 was driven by his love of the sport, and his choice of Chelsea over other European options was based on three main factors; the style of play in England, the level of competition in the Premier League and the business regulatory environment in the UK.

After assessing options in Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A, then opting for England, it was Chelsea who passed the test of most suitable investment. Since then, it has been football’s crazy unpredictability that has fuelled Abramovich’s enduring interest and passion on the pitch.

‘He likes to figure things out,’ explained Tenenbaum. ‘I think the reason why he loves football after all of these years is that it’s not a formula. It’s not an algorithm. I think that is why people love it and why it is the number one sport in the world.

‘People find it exhilarating because you can’t control it. There are so many factors. There are 11 players on the pitch. But there’s the coach who is critical. There’s the support staff which are critical. There’s the medical staff which are critical.

‘There’s the facilities which are critical. There’s the nutrition which is critical. There’s the fans which are critical. There are people who analyse the statistics which are critical. There are so many elements in that as a business as well. Every business has many elements but I don’t think that you see that every week.’

The difference between business and football is the instantaneous nature of weekly performances and results, the way those aforementioned factors come together for 90 minutes on a pitch once or twice a week and there is a winner and a loser, or a tie, at the end of it. The immediacy of being able to judge whether a strategy has worked is what makes football so intriguing, for Abramovich just like football fans all over the world.

‘In business, it’s easier in some ways,’ added Tenenbaum. ‘You set a plan, you hire the right people, you execute the plan, you assess the plan, and you change the plan as the environment changes. And it takes a while. It’s not a daily occurrence.

‘In football, the exciting thing is that you set the plan, you execute the plan, and then every week you have a validation or not of whether your plan is correct.

‘In a business environment, you have sales figures, you have results. But in this situation, every week you have a validation or not of what your strategy is and that’s the exciting part.’


Click here to read Tenenbaum's Forbes interview in full

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