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Berlusconi accepts offer for AC Milan from Chinese consortium

AC Milan’s flag flutters in front of San Siro stadium in Milan, in this April 29, 2015 file photo. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has accepted the offer from a Chinese consortium to acquire 80 percent of the Italian Serie A soccer club AC Milan, with a preliminary agreement to be signed between July 12 and 13, a person familiar with the negotiations from the Italian side told China Daily. [Photo/Agencies]

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has accepted the offer from a Chinese consortium to acquire 80 percent of the Italian Serie A soccer club AC Milan, with a preliminary agreement to be signed between July 12 and 13, a person familiar with the negotiations from the Italian side told China Daily.

“A deal in principle has been reached and the two parties will be signing the official preliminary agreement between 12 to 13 July, during which the Chinese investor group will pay a deposit of about 100 million euros as a guarantee,” the source said.

The deposit will be non-refundable should the deal fail to go through, the person said, adding “if all goes well as planned, the closing signing of the deal will be expected in September.”

The source confirmed that one major condition for the sale is that the new Chinese owners will invest at least 400 million euros in the club over the next two seasons, and the Chinese group includes state-backed enterprises.

The price of the Rossoneri, as the club is colloquially known, is valued at between 700 million to 750 million euros, including 200 million euros of debt. The Chinese group will take an initial stake of 80 percent, with the remaining 20 percent to be acquired over the next two seasons from Berlusconi’s Fininvest, the holding company of the club.

Simon Chadwick, a professor of sports enterprise at Salford Business School in Manchester, says AC Milan, plays in a league that was once Europe’s best but is now struggling.

However, Chadwick agrees that the club still retains a powerful brand, and is a potentially lucrative commercial entity.

“A Chinese takeover at the club would be headline news across the world and many observers would be interested to see whether Chinese investors could resurrect these clubs and make them great again. If the deal does happen, it would be a real signal of intent on the part of China that would make the world take china’s football ambitions more seriously,” he adds.

Should the AC Milan deal go through, Chinese investors would be majority shareholders of both Milan teams following China’s retail giant Suning Commerce Group’s takeover of the Inter Milan, AC Millan’s great rivals, a deal worth 270 million euros.

The members of the consortium have not been identified and the deal includes keeping Berlusconi, who is recovering from heart surgery, as honorary president.

Contact the reporter on wangmingjie@mail.chinadailyuk.com

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