Russian Billionaire to Cut Anzhi’s Funding as Player Exodus Seen

Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov is scaling back sponsorship of Anzhi Makhachkala, forcing his soccer club to part ways with star players that include striker Samuel Eto’o, Chairman Konstantin Remchukov said.

Anzhi will be “re-formatted,” with many expensive players leaving as the team’s annual budget is reduced to $50 million to $70 million, Remchukov said on his Twitter account. The club isn’t planning a “mass selloff” of players and will comply with its contractual obligations, according to a statement published on Anzhi’s website today.

Kerimov, who was ranked Russia’s 20th-richest person by Forbes with a $7.1 billion fortune, has fielded a star-studded lineup at Anzhi after bringing in Eto’o, who won Europe’s Champions League twice with Barcelona and once with Inter Milan, former Brazil defender Roberto Carlos and ex-Chelsea defender Yuri Zhirkov to the team, which was founded in 1991. Kerimov, 47, bought Anzhi, based in his native Dagestan, in 2011.

“Changes in the club’s budget parameters are a result of current demands by UEFA and related to the need to comply with financial fair-play rules,” Anzhi said in the statement. “At the same time, there will be no substantial strains in the life of the team and the club’s entire structure.”

Former Chelsea, Russia and Holland manager Guus Hiddink, who coached Anzhi to a third-place finish in the Russian Premier League last season, resigned on July 22. The team entered Russia’s top division in 2000 and was relegated two years later before returning to the Premier League in 2009.

$180 Million

Anzhi’s budget for 2013 was $180 million, the second-highest in the Premier League behind OAO Gazprom-backed Zenit Saint-Petersburg, according to the news website Anzhi, currently at 13th place, started this season with two draws and two losses.

Kerimov’s fortune is now at least $3.7 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His wealth has taken a hit after OAO Uralkali, the world’s biggest potash producer part-owned by Kerimov, upended the market for the fertilizer in July by quitting a trading joint venture with Belarus, which controlled more than 40 percent of global potash exports, and abandoning limits on output that underpinned prices. Uralkali’s stock has fallen 31 percent in London since July 19, wiping out $6 billion of market capitalization.

Anton Averin, a spokesman for Kerimov’s Nafta Moskva investment firm, declined to comment.

A “sudden worsening” of Kerimov’s health is the chief reason for changes at Anzhi, Remchukov, who’s also publisher and editor-in-chief of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, told the newspaper. Kerimov is experiencing no health problems, according to Averin.

Kerimov survived a car crash in 2006, in which he received severe burns, and still has to wear protective cover over his hands. The billionaire, burnt on 70 percent of his body, spent time in a medically induced coma after he crashed his Swiss lawyer’s black Ferrari Enzo on the Promenade des Anglais, in Nice on the French Riviera.

“Suleiman Kerimov is in full control of the situation,” Remchukov said on Twitter.

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