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Chinese-owned company buys Italy's AC Milan soccer club

By Angus Mcneice in London | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-14 07:18

AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi sold the much-vaunted Italian soccer club to Chinese-owned Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux on Thursday in a deal that values the club at 740 million euros ($787 million).

Fininvest, Berlusconi's company, released a statement on Thursday afternoon confirming the sale after both parties, including Han Li, general director of Luxembourg-based Rossoneri, had signed off on it at Milan law firm Gianni Origoni & Partners at around 10:30 am.

Berlusconi and club Vice-President Adriano Galliani will step down, and the takeover will be officially ratified at an AC Milan shareholder's meeting on Friday, when new directors will be appointed, according to the statement. The ratification is ceremonial since Berlusconi's company Fininvest controls 99.93 percent of shares in the club.

Fininvest agreed to sell the club to a Chinese consortium in August 2016, but a series of late payments and questions over the identity of members of the consortium saw the sale stall.

The beleaguered deal was revived in late March, when The Wall Street Journal reported that US hedge fund Elliott Management Corp had agreed to partly fund the sale.

AC Milan is now the second major Serie A club under Chinese ownership. Suning Commerce Group bought a 68.55 percent stake in Inter Milan for a reported 270 million euros in June.

Berlusconi is believed to have required assurances from the new owners of significant initial investment in the historically dominant club, which has struggled in recent years. Sempre Milan, a site that aggregates AC Milan news, wrote on Thursday that a summer transfer budget of 130 million euros was disclosed at the signing.

Chinese investors have undertaken a determined push into European soccer over the past few years, buying minority stakes in clubs with lucrative brands like Manchester City and Atletico Madrid and taking over major British clubs such as Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion. The outright purchase of AC Milan is among the most high profile yet. The club has a storied history in European soccer and a global fan base in the millions.

The sale will now be formally reviewed by Italy's soccer authorities.

angus@mail.chinadailyuk.com

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