An investment firm with ties to the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox has acquired seven-time European soccer champion A.C. Milan.
RedBird Capital Partners’ $1.2 billion purchase of the Italian league champion is the latest in a series of sports industry acquisitions. The firm bought a $735 million stake last year in Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Red Sox and iconic English soccer team Liverpool F.C. Basketball star LeBron James also owns a stake in Fenway, and the rapper Drake has a minority share in A.C. Milan.
Despite its glorious past, the team’s standing has declined in the last decade as it faced financial obstacles and poor performance. Its qualifying for the Champions League last year was the first time since 2014 that it had achieved that feat.
RedBird bought the team from Elliott, a vulture fund that acquired it in 2018 following the default on a $300 million debt by the team's former Chinese owners. Elliott had tried to set Milan’s finances on a better track, halving the team’s $200 million in losses by replacing older low-performing players with younger and cheaper ones. The roster changes led to last year’s Italian championship, putting it in good position for a sale.
“Our vision for Milan is clear: We will support our talented players, coaches, and staff to deliver success on the pitch and allow our fans to share in the extraordinary experiences of this historic club,” RedBird’s Managing Partner Gerry Cardinale told The New York Times. The firm will seek to leverage its sports and media assets to maintain “Milan’s place at the summit of European and world football,” he said.
RedBird, which owns shares in two competing teams, may need to reassure European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, that it will comply with rules barring one investor from owning a significant share in two teams, The Times reports. Milan and Liverpool are scheduled to play in this season’s Champions League, though they will not be in the same opening group.