Ukraine’s wealthiest man donating US$25 million to war effort after securing record transfer fee from soccer club


Ukrainian soccer star Mykhaylo Mudryk will be transferred to Premier League club Chelsea for a record US$76 million. About one-third of that massive payout will go to Ukrainian war efforts, Rinat Akhmetov – the billionaire metal magnate who owns Mudryk’s old team Shakhtar Donetsk – announced Monday.

New Chelsea FC signing, Mykhaylo Mudryk applauds while being introduced to the Chelsea fans. | Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Akhemetov said he will dedicate US$25 million of the payout from Chelsea toward a fund supporting soldiers who defended the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol before it fell to invading Russian forces last year, paying for medical expenses and other needs for them and their families.

The 22-year-old midfielder Mudryk signed an 8.5-year contract with Chelsea on Sunday for by far the largest transfer fee ever received by a Ukrainian team, surpassing the $56 million received by Shakhtar Donetsk in 2018 for the Brazilian midfielder Fred.

In a statement, Akhemetov lamented that the “horrendous and unjust war” makes it “impossible” to retain talented players like Mudryk to compete with Europe’s top clubs.

Akhmetov also announced his team and Chelsea will play an exhibition match at an undetermined date, a faceoff the team hopes to hold in now-Russian-controlled Donetsk.

Chelsea indirectly contributing millions toward the Ukrainian war effort comes with a tinge of irony: The club was sold last May by its long-time Russian oligarch owner Roman Abramovich after U.K. sanctions against Abramovich made his oversight of the team untenable. A group led by American billionaire investor Todd Boehly bought Chelsea for $3.1 billion.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but since 2014 has engaged in a proxy war in the Donbass, the eastern Ukrainian region which includes Donetsk, forcing Shakhtar Donetsk to play its home games in other Ukrainian cities like Kyiv and Lviv. Mudryk led Shakhtar Donetsk to a first-place finish in the Ukrainian Premier League in the 2021-22 season and has seven goals and six assists in the team’s 12 matches this season. Akhemetov’s club may receive a further $32 million from Chelsea should Mudryk hit certain incentives, according to ESPN.

Akhmetov is worth $4.3 billion according to our latest estimates, by far the largest fortune of the seven Ukrainian billionaires identified by Forbes.

“I will spare no expense or effort to achieve this goal” of making Ukraine “happier and more prosperous,” Akhemetov told Forbes in March 2022, vowing to remain in the country as the war rages on.

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