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Oaktree seizes control of Inter Milan

Featured image credit: POAN68/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

US investment fund Oaktree Capital Management has secured control of Inter Milan after the Italian Serie A football club’s holding company failed to repay a loan of around €395m (£336.4m/$428.4m).

Oaktree made the announcement today (Wednesday) following what it said was the non-repayment of its three-year loan to Inter’s holding companies that matured on May 21.

In May 2021, with Inter forecasting record financial losses during the 2020-21 season, Oaktree provided its holding companies with rescue capital to stabilise the club’s financial situation and enable it to continue operating, including to pay its players and employees.

Inter has been owned by Chinese conglomerate Suning, through a Luxembourg-based entity, since 2016. At the time, Suning’s takeover represented one of the highest profile forays by Chinese business into European football, a strategy that has since receded.

The loan was guaranteed by Suning’s majority stake in Inter Milan, with Oaktree having the potential right to assume control of the club in the event of a default.

Oaktree said it is “dedicated to achieving the best outcome for the long-term prosperity of Inter Milan”, with an initial focus on operational and financial stability for the club and its stakeholders. It added it is committed to working closely with Inter’s current management team, partners, Lega Serie A and governing bodies to “ensure the club is positioned for success on and off the pitch; focusing on robust management, operations and governance with a vision for sustainable growth and success”.

Alejandro Cano, managing director and co-head of Europe for Oaktree’s global opportunities strategy, stated: “As new owners, we recognise our responsibility to Inter Milan’s community, history and legacy.

“We are committed to the long-term success of the Nerazzurri and believe our ambitions for the club are united with those of its passionate fans in Italy and around the world. Our initial focus is operational and financial stability.

“We have great respect for Inter Milan’s management team and look forward to working closely with them to provide strong leadership for the club. Winning the second star (for its 20th Serie A title) was a pivotal moment for the club and our aim is to build on the momentum achieved on the pitch to develop a clear path for consistent growth and success.”

Oaktree said it and Inter’s management team will communicate with key stakeholders in the coming weeks to ensure there is a smooth transition.

Today’s news comes after Inter president Steven Zhang on Saturday criticised Oaktree in an open letter to fans issued ahead of the club’s final home game of the season against Lazio, when the team celebrated winning its 20th Serie A title.

Zhang said: “We have been making every attempt with our partner to find an amicable resolution, including multiple paths for Oaktree to achieve a full and immediate financial return.

“Unfortunately, our efforts to date have been exasperated by legal threats, and a lack of meaningful engagement from Oaktree. Not only has this been deeply frustrating and disappointing, such behaviour now poses potential risks to the club that could seriously jeopardise its stability.”

Inter, along with city rival AC Milan, is currently pursuing efforts to develop a new stadium. Inter recently secured an extension to a deal under which it has exclusive rights to study the feasibility of a potential stadium development in the Rozzano suburb of the city.

The previous deal, which was announced at the end of July 2023, was due to expire at the end of April 2024, with the club hoping to have developed a full feasibility study, including a cost breakdown, before the deadline. However, Inter now has until January 31, 2025, to explore the possible project in further detail.

In December, Inter launched a fan consultation initiative related to its proposed move to a new 70,000-seat stadium in the municipality of Rozzano. In October, Inter offered a glimpse of life after its current Stadio Giuseppe Meazza home by revealing initial concept images from Populous of a new stadium that it hopes will open ahead of the 2028-29 season.

In a speech to shareholders as Inter revealed record matchday revenues, CEO Alessandro Antonello said the delivery of a new stadium owned by Inter is “crucial” when it comes to achieving the club’s wider mid-to-long-term goals. The club is working on plans for a 70,000-seat stadium built on green space between Rozzano and Assago near the A7 motorway, which connects Milan and Genoa.

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