Italy's Berlusconi warming to Chinese bid for AC Milan: source

Sat May 7, 2016 11:00am EDT
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MILAN (Reuters) - Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's family company is likely to open exclusive talks next week with a group of Chinese investors interested in buying AC Milan soccer club, one of his most cherished assets, a source said on Saturday.

The tycoon is under pressure to finally relax his grip on the club he calls "my Milan", which has failed to win any major silverware in the past five years and is now in the red.

However, the club remains one of the most famous names in world soccer, having being crowned champions of Europe seven times and winning 18 Italian titles.

"It's very likely that an agreement will be reached next week that will lead to a deal in the next month," a source familiar with the situation said on Saturday.

The agreement would be between the consortium, and Berlusconi's family holding company, Fininvest. The makeup of the Chinese group is not clear.

The consortium has valued the club at 700 million euros ($798 million), including debt, another source said last week. The club had 188.5 million euros in debt at end-2015 and made a net loss of 89.3 million euros.

A deal to sell all of AC Milan is still far from certain.

Berlusconi, 79, has proven very reluctant to relinquish control of the club, though he has said he cannot give it the kind of additional capital that wealthy Arab and Asian investors have been pumping into AC Milan's European rivals.

Last June, a group led by Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol reached a deal to buy a majority stake in AC Milan.   Continued...

AC Milan's president and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi arrives before the match against Fiorentina at San Siro stadium in Milan, October 26, 2014. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini