US private investment firm RedBird Capital Partners has today (Wednesday) completed a takeover deal for AC Milan, with one of the main items on the agenda of the Italian Serie A football club’s new owners being the quandary surrounding its stadium project.
Milan will change hands between American owners with the deal with US investment management group Elliott Management valuing the recently crowned Serie A champion at €1.2bn (£1.02bn/$1.29bn).
The transition to new ownership is set to take place over the summer, with an expected closing no later than September. The deal will see Elliott retain a minority financial interest in the club and seats on the board of directors.
RedBird has prevailed in the race for Milan after it emerged last month that Bahrain-based asset manager Investcorp had backed out of a potential bid. Elliott has controlled Milan since July 2018 and assumed ownership when the club’s Chinese owner, Yonghong Li, failed to repay a €32m loan to the fund which he had taken out to complete his acquisition of the club from former owner Silvio Berlusconi in 2017.
RedBird founder and managing partner, Gerry Cardinale (pictured), said today: “We are honoured to be a part of AC Milan’s illustrious history and are excited to play a role in the club’s next chapter as it returns to its rightful place at the very top of Italian, European and world football.
“RedBird’s investment philosophy and track record in team ownership has shown that football clubs can be successful on the pitch and sustainable off it – we are looking forward to a long term partnership with the Club, its management team and Milanisti around the world to keep propelling Milan in the years to come.”
RedBird’s deal comes less than a year after it acquired a near 10% stake in Fenway Sports Group, the holding company that controls Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the Boston Red Sox and English Premier League football club Liverpool.
Elliott managing partner, Gordon Singer, said: “When Elliott acquired AC Milan in 2018, we inherited a club with a tremendous history, but with serious financial problems and a mediocre sporting performance. Our plan was simple: to create financial stability, and to return AC Milan to where it belongs in European football. Today, I believe we have accomplished both.”
RedBird assumes control of Milan at a time of great uncertainty for its new stadium project with city rival Inter. In March, the two clubs said they “remain open to evaluating other design solutions” as they continued to encounter difficulties in progressing the venture.
Populous in December saw off competition from Manica/Sportium to land the contract to design the new stadium. Populous’ project, dubbed ‘The Cathedral’, was selected, with the coming weeks having promised the finalisation of the objectives and development process of Milan’s new stadium.
However, little progress has been made since then, with the project mired in bureaucratic red tape. Since that point, Sesto San Giovanni, a commune located to the north of Milan, is said to have been identified as a ‘plan B’ alternative location for the new stadium.
Mayor of Sesto San Giovanni, Roberto Di Stefano, yesterday told the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper that Cardinale visited the proposed site last week. Di Stefano said: “Here… we would be ready immediately. The area is private and its owner agrees on the sale, the municipal administration agrees. In other words: only the green light of the clubs would be missing.
“There are no critical issues and the costs would be lower. Because the first stone could be laid within 18 months, while at San Siro I don’t know (when that could happen). This is land that has already been demolished and almost completely reclaimed. In other words, there is nothing to pull down, the land is already available. Furthermore, since it is a private area, there would be no need for public debate.”
Di Stefano said of Cardinale’s impressions of the site: “I consider it an absolutely positive visit and we will update ourselves on this. He viewed the area, together with the technicians of MilanoSesto and Milan.
“They wanted to understand the potential of the area, the services, which they are now analysing. I realise that the variables involved are many, but we are available and now the ball passes to the clubs who will have to evaluate the timing, costs and certainty of the investments. In their place, I have already decided.”