AC Milan starts sale talks with Chinese investors
Updated: 2016-05-10 18:36
By Wang Mingjie(chinadaily.com.cn)
Fans of the AC Milan soccer club at a contest between the team and Real Madrid in Shanghai. [Provided to China Daily]
A group of unidentified Chinese investors are in exclusive talks to buy AC Milan, the Italian Serie A soccer club, according to Fininvest, the owner which is the financial vehicle for ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's family. Fininvest said the club is valued at about 700 million euros, including debt.
After a month of preparing legal documents, Fininvest started exclusive discussions with the Chinese investors, said an unidentified official, adding "whether the agreement will be reached or not, that will depend on the position of different parties in the negotiation."
The negotiation would be between the consortium and Fininvest, although the makeup of the Chinese investor group was not clear.
" Fininvest has reached an agreement with a group of Chinese investors for a period of exclusivity to discuss the sale of a stake in Milan AC. A memorandum of understanding also was signed, from which more detailed negotiations are set to begin," a Fininvest statement said.
The exclusivity period is roughly one month, during which each party involved can stop the negotiations without paying any fees.
The decision to sign a memorandum of understanding and enter into exclusive talks was made by Fininvest CEO Pasquale Cannatelli at a Board of Directors meeting today.
Earlier this month media reports said Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma was interested in the takeover, but China's richest man dismissed reports that he would to buy AC Milan.
Media reports linked Baidu owner Robin Li with the talks, but a spokesperson for the Chinese search engine would not comment.
Chinese interest in Italy’s Serie A clubs is inevitable given the country’s positive attitude towards Italian football. Italian football was amongst the first leagues to be screened in China in the 1980s. Italian football clubs have in general suffered from underinvestment over the last decade, according to Simon Chadwick, professor of sports enterprise at Salford Business School in Manchester.
"One of the key issues in Italy is that the clubs are inexpensive, so they’re relatively cheap to buy and the ownership is not regulated in the same way as it is in Germany," says Chadwick, adding that outside investors are currently unable to acquire outright control of a German club because of the so-called '50+1' rule.
"It means that the fans always have a majority share in their club and I think it's an acknowledgment by the German football association and by the German government that football clubs play a special socio-cultural role," Chadwick adds.
Chadwick thinks one of the reasons that there has not been a significant interest from China in English clubs is because they are too expensive.
"For example, if you were interested in buying Manchester United you’d be looking to pay upwards of £1 billion. Whereas to buy AC Milan, which in global terms is arguably just as powerful as Manchester United, it is going to cost you considerably less," Chadwick says.
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