Ken Bates

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Bates oversees construction of Chelsea Village
Ken Bates

Ken Bates (born 4 December 1931) was chairman and majority shareholder of Chelsea from 1982 until 2003.

Bates purchased Chelsea F.C. in 1982 for £1. When he purchased the club in serious financial trouble, and threatened with relegation to the Third Division.

Marler Estates dispute

He fought (and, through sheer persistence, eventually won) a long-running legal battle with property developers, Marler Estates, who had purchased a substantial portion of the freehold of Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's home ground. He re-united the freehold with the club (and thus secured its future) after Marler's bankruptcy following a market crash, which allowed him to do a deal with their banks and create the Chelsea Pitch Owners, an organisation set-up to stave off future developers and attempted to make the club more financially viable.

Success and controversy

Bates spent 21 years at Chelsea, during which time he attracted the headlines on many occasions (many times with the controversial headlines that the club could have done without) and employed no fewer than nine managers. His match-day programme notes, in which he often attacked various individuals, were also controversial.

During the 1990s, he was involved in a bitter dispute with Chelsea benefactor and vice-chairman, Matthew Harding, over the club's future direction, which led to Harding being banned from the Chelsea boardroom. The dispute was ultimately only ended by Harding's death in a helicopter crash in October 1996. Bates sparked further controversy by later describing Harding as an "evil man" the following year.

By the end of his chairmanship Stamford Bridge had been substantially refurbished and modernised, while he had become (at the time) Chelsea's most successful chairman. The club had won several major trophies and were consistently finishing in the top six of the Premiership, with a top-class playing squad containing the likes of Gianfranco Zola and Marcel Desailly. However, its future was threatened by an estimated debt burden of £80 million, yet It was secured against the clubs ground, Stamford Bridge.

Abramovich takeover

In 2003 he sold the club to Russian oil billionaire Roman Abramovich, for a sum of £140million making a £17 million profit. Bruce Buck, the current Chairman, was in charge of the clubs sale to Roman Abramovich. After the takeover Bates was investigated by the FSA for allegedly owning undeclared shares in Chelsea Village plc, but the case was eventually dropped. He stayed on as club chairman until March 2004, when he announced his resignation.

Within a couple of weeks of his departure he was back in the limelight as he wrote a one off column in the Bolton Wanderers matchday programme, incidentally and somewhat ironically against Chelsea.

Chairmen of Chelsea
Claude Kirby (1905–35) • Charles Pratt, Sr. (1935–36) • Lt. Col. Charles Crisp (1936–40) • Joe Mears (1940–66)
Charles Pratt, Jr. (1966–68) • Len Withey (1968–69) • Brian Mears (1969–81) • Viscount Chelsea (1981–82)
Ken Bates (1982–04) • Bruce Buck (2004–)
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