Since then, the club has become a destination for some of the biggest names in European soccer such as forward Didier Drogba, midfielder Michael Ballack, and defender Ricardo Carvalho.
Abramovich also has spent significant sums hiring - and firing - prominent coaches such as Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti.
All of that money has produced results. During his tenure, Chelsea has won the English Premier League twice, the FA Cup four times, and the League Cup twice, as well as the Champions League.
The pace of Chelsea's growth has surprised many observers around the world. Even one of the club's stalwarts said he could not have imagined how big the club would become.
Veteran midfielder Frank Lampard - a London native - was asked Tuesday whether he thought when he joined Chelsea in 2001 that it would grow so much.
"The honest answer is no," Lampard said. "When I moved to Chelsea, I knew they were a big London club, a big club in England."
But the inference was clear: they weren't much more.
For as much success as Chelsea has enjoyed, there has been plenty of tumult. Current manager Roberto Di Matteo is the fifth man to take the helm since Abramovich bought the team.
Di Matteo, a former Chelsea player, got the job on an interim basis midway through last season when Andre Villas-Boas was fired, and Di Matteo might not have kept the job had he not won the Champions League.
"It was very difficult to see [when I was playing] how this club would grow globally," he said. "Last preseason we went to Asia, and it was crazy the number of people that followed us."