Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi is letting go of his AC Milan football team after more than 30 years, selling it to a consortium of Chinese investors in a 740-million-euro (825-million-dollar) deal.
The buying consortium, Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing, includes the state-backed investment fund Haixia Capital, the State Development and Investment Corporation, and Yonghong Li, a businessman who led the negotiations.
They signed a preliminary agreement to buy Berlusconi's 99.93-per-cent stake in AC Milan, valuing the club "at 740 million euros with an estimated indebtedness of approximately 220 million euros," Berlusconi family holding Fininvest said in a statement.
More unnamed Chinese buyers were expected to get on board later.
"Other investors will acquire shares of AC Milan, some of which are State-controlled entities. Among those investors are companies active in the financial industry and others in industrial sectors," Fininvest said.
The sale represents the end of an era for Berlusconi, who bought the rossoneri in February 1986 and made them one of the top teams in Europe. Under his helm, AC Milan won eight Italian league titles and five Champions Leagues.
According to the ANSA news agency, Berlusconi will stay as honorary chairman of the club.
In 1994, when he entered politics, one of Berlusconi's campaign claims was that he could make Italy as successful as his football team. But in recent years, the man's star faded, in public life as well as in sport.
Berlusconi was kicked out of parliament in 2011 following a tax fraud conviction. That was also the year AC Milan last won a Scudetto. In the last Serie A season, they finished in seventh place, failing to qualify for any European tournaments.
Leaving hospital a month ago after a heart operation, Berlusconi said he had no more energy to dedicate to the club, and said he would sell to buyers committed to reviving AC Milan's glory "in Italy, Europe and the world."
The 79-year-old media mogul turned politician, who is increasingly thinking about legacy issues, said he would ask the Chinese who had expressed interest in the club to invest "at least 400 million euros in the next two years."
In the end, buyers agreed to pay a 100-million-euro deposit, and inject 350 million euros over the next three years, including 100 million at the closing of the sale agreement, expected by the end of 2016, Fininvest said.
AC Milan's city rivals, Inter Milan, are already in Chinese hands. On June 6, Chinese retail giant Suning Commerce Group agreed to acquire a 68.55-per-cent stake in the nerazzurri club in a deal worth 270 million euros.
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