Bruce Buck, one of Roman Abramovich’s closest confidants, is stepping down as chair of Chelsea Football Club following the £2.5bn sale of the English Premier League side.
Buck, 76, would leave the role at the end of June, Chelsea said on Monday, although he would remain a senior adviser to the club’s new owners.
The US lawyer was critical to the Russian oligarch’s 2003 takeover of Chelsea and the club’s subsequent transformation into one of the top teams in European football.
The Financial Times reported in May that Buck and fellow director Marina Granovskaia had been offered the opportunity to remain in place following last month’s sale to a consortium led by US financier Todd Boehly and investment firm Clearlake Capital.
However, that plan drew a rebuke from UK Conservative MP Julian Knight, chair of the digital, culture, media and sport committee in the House of Commons.
“Any continuity with the Abramovich regime at Chelsea is certainly an unsettling development,” he said at the time.
Buck said on Monday that “now is the right time to step down and let new ownership build on the strong foundations we have in place”.
“The owners have a compelling vision for Chelsea’s future, and I look forward to helping them achieve it in this new role.”
Buck became chair of Chelsea soon after advising Abramovich on his £140mn takeover in 2003.
His history with Abramovich goes back to the 1990s. After relocating from the US, Buck was responsible for growing the European operations of US law firm Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. He retired from Skadden’s London office in 2014.
Skadden advised Russian oil company Sibneft when it was under Abramovich’s control. Abramovich sold his stake in Sibneft for $13bn to Russian state energy group Gazprom in 2005.
Buck played a vital role in last month’s sale of Chelsea. The UK placed Abramovich under sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the club was only able to continue operating thanks to a special licence granted by the government.
Boehly, co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, and Clearlake acquired Chelsea for £2.5bn and also committed a further £1.75bn to invest in the club over the next decade, meeting strict conditions set by Abramovich and his negotiators.
Buck once rejected the label of “Abramovich’s right-hand man” and instead described himself as “the little-toe-on-the-left-foot man”.