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RedBird seals AC Milan takeover

US private investment firm RedBird Capital Partners has today (Wednesday) formally concluded its takeover of Italian Serie A football club AC Milan touting its “track record” in sports stadium developments, with Yankee Global Enterprises (YGE) coming in as a new minority owner.

RedBird’s takeover of Milan was initially announced in June, with the club set to change hands between American owners. The deal with US investment management group Elliott Management values the reigning Serie A champion at €1.2bn (£1.03bn/$1.19bn).

The transition to new ownership 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 in May 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.

Today’s announcement also came with confirmation of reports yesterday that YGE, owner of Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the New York Yankees, will enter into a strategic partnership with Milan through a minority equity stake in the club.

RedBird has a longstanding relationship with the Yankees and the Steinbrenner family, with whom it is a co-owner of the Yankees Entertainment Sports (YES) Network, the most-watched regional sports network in the United States.

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.

It emerged last month that the Municipality of Milan had rejected calls for two separate referendums concerning the project to deliver a new stadium for the Milanese rivals.

More details were outlined in June about a potential new stadium for Milan in Sesto San Giovanni. The Corriere della Sera reported that renowned architect Sir Norman Foster had drawn up designs for a stadium that would serve as the sole home of Milan.

Gerry Cardinale, RedBird founder and managing partner, said today: “Our vision for Milan is clear: we will support our talented players, coaches and staff to deliver success on the pitch and allow our fans to share in the extraordinary experiences of this historic club.

“We will look to leverage our global sports and media network, our analytics expertise, our track record in sports stadium developments and hospitality to deliver one goal – maintaining Milan’s place at the summit of European and world football.”

On the partnership with YGE, Cardinale added: “We have a multi-decade relationship with the New York Yankees and the Steinbrenner family that has resulted in the creation of some of the most successful businesses in sports, entertainment and hospitality.

“We are very pleased to continue our partnership with them and will look to explore opportunities together to broaden our fan reach and expand commercial opportunities that are only available to franchises that operate at the highest levels of sports globally.”

The completion of the purchase of Milan takes RedBird’s assets under management to approximately $7.5bn (£6.46bn/$7.49bn) and adds AC Milan to RedBird’s portfolio of global sports and entertainment investments.

RedBird last year acquired a near 10% stake in Fenway Sports Group, the holding company that controls MLB franchise the Boston Red Sox, English Premier League football club Liverpool and NHL ice hockey team Pittsburgh Penguins.

RedBird’s other sports team interests also include French Ligue 1 football club Toulouse and Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket franchise the Rajasthan Royals.

Image: D7ckon/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size