Tuesday 27 September 2016

Berlusconi to sell AC Milan to team of Chinese investors

Elvira Pollina

Published 06/07/2016 | 02:30

AC Milan's Paulo Maldini holds aloft the Champions League trophy after winning the Champions League Final, Olympic Stadium, Athens, in 2007
AC Milan's Paulo Maldini holds aloft the Champions League trophy after winning the Champions League Final, Olympic Stadium, Athens, in 2007

Italian tycoon and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is close to selling soccer club AC Milan to a Chinese consortium in a deal that could see the Serie A team listed in China.

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"Milan is to all extents and purposes on a path towards China," Mr Berlusconi said yesterday, leaving a Milan hospital after heart surgery.

Fininvest, the Berlusconi family holding company which owns AC Milan, entered exclusive talks with the consortium in May.

The club, which posted a loss of €93.5m last year, needs new capital to fund its business and compete with top European clubs, many now bankrolled by Gulf and Asian owners.

Chinese electronics retailer Suning Commerce Group agreed last month to buy nearly 70pc of AC Milan's local rival Inter.

"I have accepted the valuation for the club proposed (by the Chinese consortium) and demanded that they commit to invest €400m over two years," Berlusconi told reporters. The consortium's offer values the club at €700m-€750m including debt, sources have said.

A source with knowledge of the matter said a preliminary deal with the Chinese could be sealed at the start of next week, or by July 15 at the latest.

The consortium would buy 80pc of the club immediately but would take full control in a short time, the source said.

This is not the first time Berlusconi has been close to selling his beloved club. Last year, talks with Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol to sell a majority stake foundered when Berlusconi changed his mind at the last minute.

But according to a second source, close friends have advised the 79-year-old to let go this time because of his health.

The source also said the Chinese investors intended to list AC Milan in China, albeit not in the immediate future.

The popularity of football is going through a period of massive growth in China where Europe's glamour clubs enjoy wide fan bases and commercial success.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, an avid fan, plans to create a domestic sports industry worth $850bn by 2025. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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