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GAME ON

Chinese investors want to buy the legendary AC Milan soccer club from Silvio Berlusconi

AP/Antonio Calanni
A tough season.
By Zheping Huang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A group of Chinese investors is in exclusive talks with former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to buy AC Milan, a member of Italy’s Serie A league and historically one of the world’s most successful soccer clubs.

Yesterday (May 10) Berlusconi’s holding company Fininvest released a statement (link in Italian) saying it had signed a memorandum with the unnamed Chinese buyers to exclusively discuss the possible sale of the club. The statement gives no details on the length of the exclusivity period.

The Chinese consortium is valuing the club at up to €750 million ($854 million), including debt, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. The source said the talks will last one month and are non-binding. Another source said the Chinese buyers seek to initially buy a 70% stake in the club, and then take over the rest in the following 12 to 18 months.

Founded in 1899, AC Milan is one of the most valuable and reputable clubs in Italian and world soccer. It has won Europe’s top club competition seven times, second only to Real Madrid. But it’s at an historical low point now. It failed to win any titles in the past five years, and currently it ranks only seventh in the Serie A league.

Berlusconi, who’s owned the club for over three decades, has been seeking a buyer since last year, when he spoke to a potentially interested Thai businessman.

Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Baidu’s Robin Li have been linked with the current bid. Ma openly dismissed the rumor. A Baidu spokesman refused to comment on the matter when contacted by Quartz.

Professional soccer has become the latest target of China’s global buying spree, after president Xi Jinping announced his ambition to make the nation a superpower in the sport. Many top players have headed to China amid a gold rush of sorts, while various European clubs have received Chinese investments:

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