A “quiet powerhouse” is the label a top sporting director gave to Marina Granovskaia after hearing about her negotiating skills from a string of agents before she experienced it herself.
Roman Abramovich’s trusted lieutenant is leaving Chelsea, where she controlled day-to-day operations and was head of transfers, at a significant loss for the club.
The Russian-Canadian executive was the most influential woman in the Premier League – and possibly European football – but is fiercely private and has never courted the public.
Chelsea’s overwhelming success, fueled by Abramovich’s riches, was shaped by Granovskaia’s decisions. She pulled the strings when the club moved into their Cobham training complex, which opened in 2007, and was even instructive in the lucrative long-term sponsorship deal with Nike.
Granovskaia has been key in building the relationship with Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem, who act as a development center for Chelsea’s talented youngsters.
Their ability to pull off a tough deal is evident in the Stamford Bridge side’s sales – Real Madrid agreed to pay up to £130m including bonuses for Eden Hazard in the final year of his contract – and their status as league leaders in profit from expenses.
Other clubs, most notably Liverpool, have gotten used to Chelsea’s mini-business selling incredibly well.
Granovskaia’s departure will be felt in all areas of the club and although she has never cared for headlines, in a football context she will leave with much acclaim.
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 bought Chelsea in 2003 and became, as one source put it, “the voice in 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)
Markus Walter (Co-Owner of Chelsea, Co-Founder and CEO of Guggenheim Partners, Owner of Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Sparks)
Hansjoerg 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 (Managing Director and co-founder of MBC PR)
Lord Daniel Finkelstein OBE (Columnist and former Times Editor-in-Chief)
James Pade (Partner and Managing Director of Clearlake Capital)
Abramovich respected her attitude to all matters affecting the club and she joined the board in 2013, becoming one of its four plc directors.
The bond between Granovskaia and the former Chelsea owner has led to their exit. Their loyalty to Abramovich remains intact, and the new trustees — a consortium that includes Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital — want their own leaders to implement a new vision.
Chelsea games: Lampard’s Everton first, then Spurs
Chelsea start the 2022/23 season with a live trip to Frank Lampard’s Everton Sky Sports before welcoming London rivals Spurs in his first home game.
Thomas Tuchel’s side face a reunion with blues legend Lampard at 5.30pm on August 6 at Goodison Park before Tottenham visit Stamford Bridge a week later.
Chelsea host Liverpool in west London on September 17, Manchester United on October 22 and Arsenal on November 5.
Their last game before the month-long World Cup break is in Newcastle and they continue their Boxing Day campaign against newly promoted Bournemouth.
Chelsea travel to Tottenham on February 25 and Arsenal on April 29, the latter being the start of their final five games, including Manchester City on the penultimate weekend of the season and Newcastle on the last day of the game at home.
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