Chelsea Owner Abramovich Asks To Quit As Governor Of Russian Region
December 20, 2006 1:28pm CST
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, owner of London's Chelsea Football Club, requested Wednesday to be relieved of his duties as governor of a remote Russian region. Abramovich submitted his resignation as governor of Chukotka to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting at Moscow's Kremlin, Interfax reported. "A decision ... has yet to be made," Putin spokesman Alexei Gromov was quoted as saying. It was unclear when Abramovich's term would end, should Putin accept his resignation. Abramovich, 39, was elected governor of the area of north-east Russia across the Bering Strait from Alaska in 2000 for reasons that he has never disclosed. Moscow-based investment bank Deutsche UFG, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bank, has called Abramovich's governorship "the one vestige of (his) oligarch days," referring to a practice of entering politics to guarantee safety against the expropriation of assets gained in the privatizations of the post-Soviet 1990s. Abramovich - who has had a hand in industries ranging from oil to metals - had begun his political career in 1999 as a federal parliamentary deputy representing Chukotka. When re-appointed head of Chukotka by Putin in October 2005 after gubernatorial elections were abolished, media reported the oligarch wanted to leave the post. But with an estimated 200 million dollars of Abramovich and his partners' money pumped into the 50,000-person region last year - and with similar amounts thought to have reached Chukotka's economy in previous years - Abramovich's tenure has been lucrative for the sparsely populated area. Many in Russia have cited Abramovich's governorship as a model of how Putin would like all of Russia's fabulously wealthy oligarchs to behave: by taking political posts and injecting their own money into public works and infrastructure projects. A large portion of Anadyr, the regional capital with a population of 10,000, has been rebuilt by Abramovich's money. As a result, salaries in the once-economically depressed area are now nearly three times as high as the average Russian's. Abramovich, who sold his oil major Sibneft to Russian state-owned Gazprom for 13 billion dollars in 2005, spends the vast majority of his time in London. His term as Chukotka governor had been set to end in 2010.