The Ricketts family, owners of Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the Chicago Cubs, have announced they are in talks to acquire Italian Serie A football club AC Milan, but they will reportedly face competition from another US party.
According to the Associated Press news agency, the Milan office of the Edelman public relations firm, which has been hired to represent the Ricketts, said the entire family is interested in a takeover of Milan for “a medium- to long-period investment” and wants to create “a strong bond with the city”.
However, Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport has reported that Rocco Commisso, owner of the New York Cosmos, is already in negotiations with current Milan chairman Yonghong Li. Gazzetta said Commisso is being backed by US financial services company Goldman Sachs in his approach, adding that he is ahead of the Ricketts family in the race for Milan.
The US interest comes with increasing question marks over the financial situation of Milan. The club qualified for the Uefa Europa League last season, but risks being ejected from the competition by European football’s governing body over a breach of financial fair play rules.
In April 2017, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s holding company, Fininvest, completed the protracted sale of its 99.93-per-cent stake in AC Milan to Luxembourg-based Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux.
Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux, which is controlled by Li, replaced the original Chinese bid vehicle, Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing (SES). US private equity fund Elliott earlier agreed to provide Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux with the necessary funds to complete the transaction.
Elliott provided €180m ($212.4m) to complete the deal, plus a further €128m to aid investment in the playing squad, with AC Milan spending over €200m on players in 2017 alone. The loans, with an average interest rate of just below 10 per cent, will have to be repaid by October 2018.
Commisso is a prominent figure in the US football market. Earlier this month it emerged that Commisso had withdrawn his offer of $500m (€423.7m) in funding for a revived North American Soccer League (NASL) after the US Soccer Federation refused to meet his demands.
Commisso’s offer – made in a letter on April 13 – came with several conditions, including that the USSF suspend its professional league standards for 10 years, allowing the NASL time to develop.
The Cosmos played in the NASL until 2018, when the USSF refused to sanction it as a second-division league because it failed to meet certain standards.