Sun, Apr 05, 2015 - Page 18 News List

HK businessman linked to AC Milan

AFP, HONG KONG

Hong Kong’s Richard Lee, reported to be spearheading a bid to buy seven-time European champions AC Milan, is a colorful businessman known for importing Italian supercars to China.

Speculation has been swirling that Lee could be negotiating the purchase of the soccer powerhouse for a Chinese consortium after being spotted with current owner Silvio Berlusconi, according to Italian reports.

The 57-year-old Lee imported Ferraris and Maseratis into Hong Kong for more than 20 years, more recently expanding the business to China, and is currently the president of China Premium Lifestyle Enterprise, an importer of luxury products, according to Bloomberg News.

Pictures of the tycoon have shown him living the high life, relaxing on luxury yachts or driving supercars.

He was made a Commander of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity by former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi in 2006 for promoting Italian business in Hong Kong and mainland China.

One of Lee’s long-time friends told Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post that the businessman would have “easy access” to the deal to acquire AC Milan.

“The power of Richard is the friends he grew up with,” the friend, who was not named, told the Post.

“When you’ve been selling Ferraris in Hong Kong for more than 20 years — to tycoons when they were young — he’s the guy in the middle of all this,” the friend added.

Italian reports quoted former Italian prime minister Berlusconi as saying “the sale of 75 percent of the club to the Chinese has been done” at a private event on Tuesday.

AC Milan is said to be among the most popular foreign clubs in China and the push for Berlusconi to sell, according to sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, has come directly from the Chinese government as it looks to raise the sport’s profile in the country.

The paper said the 75 percent stake could sell for between 1 billion euros and 1.5 billion euros (US$1.1 billion and US$1.6 billion).

If the deal were to go through, Milan would become the second Serie A club to be sold to Asian investors. Indonesian tycoon Erick Thohir bought a 70 percent stake in Milan in November 2013.

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