A “quiet powerhouse” is the label one top sporting director tagged Marina Granovskaia with having heard about her negotiating prowess from a number of agents before experiencing it himself.
Roman Abramovich’s trusted lieutenant departs Chelsea, where she controlled day-to-day dealings and was their transfer chief, in what is a significant loss for the club.
The Russian-Canadian executive has been the most influential woman in the Premier League – and quite possibly European football – but is fiercely private and has never courted publicity.
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Chelsea’s staggering success, powered by Abramovich’s riches, was contoured by Granovskaia’s decisions. She pulled the strings when the club moved to their Cobham training complex, which opened in 2007 and was even instructive in the lucrative long-term sponsorship deal secured with Nike.
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Granovskaia was key to building the relationship with Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem which has acted as a development hub for Chelsea’s talented youngsters.
Her ability to drive a hard deal can be spotted in the Stamford Bridge side’s sales – Real Madrid agreed to pay as much as £130 million, including bonuses, for Eden Hazard in the final year of his contract – and in their status as league leaders in profits from outgoings.
Other clubs, most notably Liverpool, cottoned on to Chelsea’s mini-business of selling incredibly well.
Granovskaia’s departure will be felt in all areas of the club and while she never cared for headlines, she’ll exit with plenty of acclaim in a football context.
Granovskaia’s relationship with Abramovich
She has been one of Abramovich’s closest allies for over two decades, having first met the billionaire when he took over Russian oil company Sibneft in 1997.
Granovskaia, who graduated from Moscow State University, moved to London when the oligarch purchased Chelsea in 2003 and became, as one source put it, “the voice inside his head”.
Chelsea’s recently-confirmed board members
Behdad Eghbali and Jose E. Feliciano (co-controlling owners of Chelsea, and co-founders and managing partners of Clearlake Capital)
Mark Walter (co-owner of Chelsea, co-founder and CEO of Guggenheim Partners, owner of Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Sparks)
Hansjorg Wyss (co-owner of Chelsea and founder of the Wyss Foundation)
Jonathan Goldstein (co-owner of Chelsea, co-founder and CEO of Cain International)
Barbara Charone (director and co-founder of MBC PR)
Lord Daniel Finkelstein OBE (columnist and former executive editor of The Times)
James Pade (partner and managing director of Clearlake Capital)
Abramovich respected her take on all matters concerning the club and she joined the board in 2013, becoming one of their four plc directors.
The bond between Granovskaia and Chelsea’s former owner has prompted her exit. Her loyalty remains to Abramovich and the new custodians – a consortium fronted by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital – want their own people in charge to execute a fresh vision.
Chelsea kick-off their 2022/23 season with a trip to Frank Lampard’s Everton live on Sky Sports before hosting London rivals Spurs in their first home game.
Thomas Tuchel’s side face a reunion with Blues legend Lampard at Goodison Park on August 6, kick-off 5.30pm, before Tottenham visit Stamford Bridge a week later.
Chelsea will host Liverpool in West London on September 17, Manchester United on October 22 and Arsenal on November 5.
Their final fixture before the month-long break for the World Cup is away at Newcastle, and they continue their campaign on Boxing Day against newly-promoted Bournemouth.
Chelsea travel to Tottenham on February 25 and Arsenal on April 29, with the latter the start of a bumper last five games including Manchester City away on the penultimate weekend of the season and Newcastle at home on the final day.
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