Thu, Jul 07, 2016 - Page 16 News List

Berlusconi set to sell AC Milan to Chinese investor

AFP, MILAN

Italy’s billionaire former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday said he was ready to sell AC Milan to a Chinese investor as long as 400 million euros (US$441.92 million) were invested in the struggling Serie A giants over two years.

“I gave up all claims to the price, I accepted what was offered to me, which does not even take into account the importance of the brand,” Berlusconi said.

The 79-year-old media mogul did not name the investor, but said it was a “Chinese company with public capital.”

“I demanded the new owners commit to invest at least 400 million euros in AC Milan over the next two years,” he told reporters on his release from hospital after open-heart surgery.

He had initially hoped to keep the fallen seven-time European champions “in Italian hands,” but in May, the club said Berlusconi’s holding compan,y Fininvest, had begun serious negotiations with a Chinese consortium.

Italian media speculated that the buyer could be Jack Ma, one of the wealthiest men in the world and founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, or real-estate group Evergrande Real Estate, which already owns a majority stake in Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande.

Berlusconi bought AC Milan in 1986, saving it from bankruptcy.

“I’ve been here for 30 years, but in the last four years ... I’ve had to deal with other worries,” he said, referring to legal woes, including a conviction for tax fraud. “I have not followed Milan as closely as in the past and I now want to close this 30-year period, in which we’ve won 28 trophies. I believe this final decision is important, to hand Milan over to those able to make it a key player once more in Italy, Europe and the world.”

The takeover would see AC Milan become the second Milan club, after Inter, to be sold to Asian owners. Inter was taken over by Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir in November 2014.

Rossoneri fans will watch cautiously from the sidelines to see what transpires from the latest chapter in a prolonged epic about the club and its likely future direction.

In June last year, it was announced Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol would purchase a 48 percent stake in Milan, although the deal came to nothing after he reportedly failed to collect the necessary funds.

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