Berlusconi will keep control of AC Milan, Fininvest says

Sat May 2, 2015 1:31pm EDT
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MILAN (Reuters) - Silvio Berlusconi will keep control of his AC Milan soccer club but could sell a minority stake, his holding company said on Saturday, following talks between the former Italian prime minister and Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol.

Berlusconi met Bee for the second time this week but a statement from Fininvest dismissed growing media speculation in recent months that he could sell a majority stake in Milan, one of Italy's most glamorous clubs.

"The proposed collaboration, which remains to be defined in many points, foresees the acquisition of a minority stake by a group of investors and that control of the club remains solidly in the hands of President Silvio Berlusconi and Fininvest," the statement read.

Italian media reports said Bee was offering 500 million euros ($560 million) for a 51 percent stake in Milan, aiming to join a series of other foreign tycoons who have bought some of the most prestigious European soccer clubs in recent years.

AC Milan, seven times European champions, has been a central part of Berlusconi's media and political empire for three decades.

But the club has lost some of its shine in recent years. It won the most recent of its 18 Serie A championships in 2011, racked up debts of 250 million euros and made a loss of 91 million euros last year.

"My main concern is to give Milan fans the guarantee that the new season will ensure a future that matches the heights of the glorious past," Berlusconi told reporters after meeting with Bee at a Milan hotel. The two men also met at Berlusconi's sumptuous villa on Wednesday.

The Fininvest statement said discussion topics included raising the value of the AC Milan brand in Asia.

Neither Berlusconi nor Bee offered any indication of how long it could take to wrap up a deal.   Continued...

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi sits in the tribune near his daughter Barbara during the Italian Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Lazio at the San Siro stadium in Milan, August 31, 2014.  REUTERS/ Stefano Rellandini