Home >companies >AC Milan said to weigh sale as Lazard contacts potential bidders

New York: AC Milan, the seven-time European soccer champion owned by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, is weighing a sale, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

Lazard Ltd has sent marketing documents to potential buyers, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the process isn’t public.

A spokesman for Berlusconi’s Fininvest SpA, which controls AC Milan, said the team isn’t for sale. He asked not to be identified. Judi Mackey, a spokeswoman for Lazard, didn’t return a call seeking comment.

It’s an absolutely great brand, said Sal Galatioto, founder of Galatioto Sports Partners, a New York-based sports advisory firm that has represented, among others, Tom Ricketts in his $845 million purchase of Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs from Tribune Co. in 2009.

AC Milan, valued at $945 million by Forbes magazine, is 10th in Italy’s top division. The club is 34 points behind first-place Juventus and six behind fifth-place Inter Milan, which last year sold a 70 percent stake to a group of Indonesian investors led by Erick Thohir. Lazard represented the seller, Massimo Moratti.

As for AC Milan, even after spending that brought in Italian national team striker Mario Balotelli and Brazil’s Robinho, the club is in danger of missing the Champions League, the regional competition for top clubs.

Berlusconi, the billionaire three-time premier, bought the team whose official name is Associazione Calcio Milan in 1986. His Milan-based holding company, Fininvest, controls Italy broadcaster Mediaset and publisher Arnoldo Mondadori. He serves as honorary club president, and his daughter, Barbara, joined the board in 2011.

Sixth most-valuable

The team and Inter Milan each have 18 Serie A titles, placing them second behind Juventus. AC Milan is the sixth most- valuable soccer club in the world and the most expensive in Italy’s top division, according to Forbes’ valuation in April 2013.

Milan trails European competitors in game-day revenue because the San Siro, the 88-year-old stadium it shares with Inter, doesn’t have the money-making amenities of newer facilities, said Galatioto, who said he expects potential buyers to come from Asia.

The team’s revenue rose to €263.5 million, according to accounting firm Deloitte’s sports business group. Milan earned €51.4 million from UEFA’s Champions League.

In January, the team fired coach Massimiliani Allegri, and replaced him with Clarence Seedorf, who is the only person to win the Champions League with three different clubs.

Hedge-fund manager James Pallotta, an investor in basketball’s Boston Celtics, in 2011 led a group that bought Serie A team AS Roma.

Inter Milan

Thohir, who is based in Jakarta, is founder and president of Mahaka Group, a media and entertainment business. Thohir is also the managing general partner of D.C. United of Major League Soccer.

As evidenced by the recent purchases of Inter and AS Roma, Serie A and certain of its clubs are great brands, said Chuck Baker, a partner with DLA Piper’s Global Sports Media and Entertainment practice, whose clients include AS Roma and Pallotta’s Raptor Capital Management LP. If we can bring US and other global sports marketing and merchandising strategies, newer facilities and an improved fan experience, the investments have tremendous upside potential. Bloomberg

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