A controlling stake in the top division of the Italian soccer league – Serie A – Palermo football club will be sold to a pool of Chinese investors within a month. Maurizio Zamparini, president and main owner of Palermo, said this in an interview with the Italian edition of Corriere dello Sport. The Chinese, according to him, will acquire 65-75% of the club’s shares, the deal will cost 200 million euros. “We met with a foundation that has offices in London, Dubai and China. <...> Potential buyers want to build a new stadium and training center, ”said Zamparini.
Zamparini will retain a minority stake in accordance with the terms of the deal. “I love football and I love Palermo. But I’m tired, it’s time to think about the future of the club, ”Zamparini told the publication.
Zamparini in 2002 became the sole owner of Palermo, founded in 1900, and a new era began in the history of the club. In 2004, the team entered Serie A for the first time in 30 years. In the 2006/07 season, Palermo finished 5th in Serie A, the highest achievement of the club during its existence. The 2015/16 season saw several coach changes for the club. After seven Serie A rounds of the 2016/17 season, the club is in 18th place out of 20.
Negotiations on the sale of the Palermo club have been going on for a long time, according to Reuters. Potential buyers were American and Chinese investors, according to Gazzetta dellо Sport. But in the course of negotiations, American investors abandoned the deal, and priority shifted to Chinese companies. Who exactly is ready to acquire control in Palermo, Zamparini did not say. Vedomosti’s request to the football club remained unanswered.
Earlier in 2016, Chinese investors acquired several of the top Italian clubs. In August, the Fininvest holding, owned by the Silvio Berlusconi family, agreed to sell 99.93% of FC Milan to a consortium led by Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing for 740 million euros. Two months earlier, Milan’s main rival, Inter Milan, had been bought by Chinese retail giant Suning Commerce Group, which paid € 270 million for a 70% stake in the club.
The interest of Chinese companies in European football clubs is related to China’s policy aimed at increasing the popularity of football in the country, the China Daily notes. In addition, the value of Italian football clubs is relatively low – for example, compared to German Bundesliga clubs. It is also important that the owners of Italian clubs do not require to retain 50% plus 1 share, as do many owners of other European clubs, reminds China Daily.