New era for Italian ‘calcio’ as Chinese buy AC Milan
Serie A giants AC Milan were sold to Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux on Thursday in a deal which sees the Chinese-led consortium take a 99.9% stake in the club to usher in a new era in Italian football.
The seven-time European champions who are Italy’s most successful club in international competition, have been owned by former three-time Italy prime minister Silvio Berlusconi since 1986.
After Milan’s struggles to match their unrivalled success of the 1990s, Berlusconi, 80, hands over the reigns following a 31-year spell in charge which garnered five Champions League titles, eight Serie A titles, seven Italian Super Cups and five UEFA Super Cups.
“I will always be AC Milan’s number one fan and I wish the club’s new owners all the best for the future,” Berlusconi said in comments reported by Sky Sport.
“It is with a mix of sadness and emotion that I leave the club. I will never forget the emotions I felt.
“If Milan are to be competitive, resources are needed. One family can’t do it all by itself.”
A joint statement by AC Milan’s holding company Fininvest and Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux said: “Today Fininvest has completed the sale of the entire stake owned in AC Milan – equal to 99.93% – to Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux.”
The 740 million-euro ($786 million) deal, dogged by months of delays as the consortium — formerly known as Sino-Europe Sports (SES) — struggled to meet deadlines for scheduled down payments, was confirmed shortly after 1300 GMT.
It sees AC Milan become the second Chinese-owned club in the city, and in Italy’s top flight, after Inter Milan. According to widespread reports in Italian media, mystery Chinese businessman Yonghong Li — whose 500m euros fortune came from the construction and packaging businesses — will be named as Milan’s new owner.
– protracted takeover –
The joint statement added: “The closing is the last step of the purchase agreement signed on August 5th 2016 and renewed on March 24th by Fininvest CEO Danilo Pellegrino and David Han Li, as a representative of Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux.
“The terms of the agreement are the same disclosed in August and reflect of an aggregate evaluation of AC Milan equal to 740 million euros, which includes the club’s indebtedness, equal to 220 million euros as of June 30th 2016.
“A 90 million euro refund for AC Milan’s running costs anticipated by Fininvest from July 1 2016 hitherto add up to the evaluation. The buyers also confirmed their commitment to undertake significant capital increases and liquidity injections aimed at strengthening AC Milan’s financial structure.”
In June 2016 the Chinese Suning group owned by commercial tycoon Zhang Jindong took over control of Inter from Indonesian Erick Thohir, who acquired a majority stake in the Nerazzurri in October 2013.
Despite massive summer investment, Inter have struggled to repay Suning’s investments on the pitch and are currently one of several teams, along with AC Milan, battling for a place in next season’s Europa League.
However, Suning’s purchase of Inter, and subsequent management of the club has been smooth in comparison to the protracted takeover of AC Milan.
Despite making two down payments of 100m euros each to buy the club last December, the takeover was in doubt a month ago when the consortium failed to meet another payment deadline.
AC Milan’s new owners are expected to bring the investment that will allow the club, who lost the nucleus of their team in 2012 when Berlusconi sold a host of top stars, to get back into contention for the Champions League in the future.
Those are also the hopes of former coach Fabio Capello, who led the Rossoneri to three consecutive league titles in 1992-1994 and a Champions League trophy in 1994.
“For me it’s not a great day,” Capello told Sky. “I owe everything to Berlusconi, who from my first day in the job left me agape when he asked us to produce spectacular, winning football.
“I hope the new owners have the cash to be able to compete with the top clubs in Europe.”
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