An investment vehicle which owns a stake in Liverpool Football Club’s parent company is trying to gatecrash a €1bn-plus takeover of AC Milan, one of the giants of Italian football.
Sky News has learnt that RedBird Capital Partners has approached the Serie A team’s owner – the US-based hedge fund Elliott Management – about a deal.
Sources said RedBird was trying to prise AC Milan from the clutches of Investcorp, a Bahrain-based investor which had secured a now-lapsed period of exclusivity within which to seal a takeover.
It remained possible that Investcorp would still strike a deal instead, trumping RedBird or any other suitors, they added.
RedBird has become one of the world’s most prolific investors in elite sports and associated technology companies, such as India’s Dream Sports, which organises fantasy cricket competitions for millions of Indians, and Toulouse, the French top-flight team.
Last year, RedBird bought a stake of just over 10% in Fenway Sports Group (FSG), Liverpool’s owner for the last decade, for a reported $750m.
FSG also owns the Boston Red Sox baseball team and New England Sports Network.
It was unclear on Thursday how close RedBird was to securing any form of agreement with Elliott to buy AC Milan.
One insider said it was possible that an agreement could be struck within days.
A takeover of AC Milan would represent the latest deal involving one of Europe’s top football clubs.
Advisers to Chelsea, last season’s Champions League winners, are trying to clinch a sale worth a total of about £4bn following owner Roman Abramovich‘s sanctioning by the UK government.
Elliott itself became briefly involved in the Chelsea auction when it backed an offer assembled by the Blues-supporting property entrepreneur Nick Candy.
A source said some of the bidders which had failed to secure exclusivity at Chelsea could switch their attention to other top clubs, including AC Milan.
Other top sides on the continent, such as Barcelona and Juventus, were forced to raise capital during the pandemic amid a sharp reduction in revenues, while elite leagues in France and Spain have struck deals with the private equity firm CVC Capital Partners to sell stakes in their commercial rights.
Serie A also considered offloading a stake to CVC or other investors, but those talks stalled last year.
AC Milan, which shares the city’s San Siro stadium with rivals Internazionale, has been owned by Elliott since 2018.
The hedge fund, which owns companies such as the bookseller Waterstones, took control of the club after its previous Chinese owner defaulted on its debts.
AC Milan now stands on the brink of its first league title – or scudetto – since the 2010-11 season and only its second in the last 20 years.
The club last won the Champions League 15 years ago.
Under Elliott’s stewardship, AC Milan’s finances have been stabilised, while its performance on the pitch has recovered to the extent that a revival of its successes during Silvio Berlusconi’s reign is considered a possibility.
The exact price that a new owner would pay to gain control of the Rossoneri – so-called because of the side’s distinctive red and black shirts – is unclear, although sources indicated that it would be north of €1bn.
RedBird was founded by Gerry Cardinale, a former Goldman Sachs partner, and manages $5bn of investments across sectors including consumer goods, financial services and telecoms, media and technology.
It also founded a US-listed special purpose acquisition company called RedBall, which has struck a $1.3bn deal to take SeatGeek, an online ticketing platform, public.
RedBird, Elliott and Investcorp all declined to comment on Thursday.