Italian financier seeks hedge funds' help to clinch deal for Genoa football club - sources

LONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Italian financier Giulio Gallazzi is seeking binding commitments from a series of hedge funds to finance a proposed takeover of Italy’s oldest football club, Genoa CFC, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

If successful, the deal, which could be worth more than 120 million euros ($141.07 million), would make Genoa the first club in Italy to be entirely owned by financial investors.

It would also mark the latest in a series of foreign takeovers of high-profile Italian clubs competing in Serie A.

Bologna-born Gallazzi, who controls London-based advisory firm SRI Group, has until Sept. 30 to sweeten an initial bid which was submitted earlier this month.

Gallazzi, 53, has pledged to clean up Genoa’s 110 million euros debt and has asked a series of international hedge funds including UK-based Bybrook Capital to help fund his bid, which will cover all Genoa’s debt and add about 10 million euros in cash, the sources said.

Bybrook, which received initial funding from U.S. giant Blackstone in 2014, declined to comment.

Gallazzi has been in talks with Genoa’s owner Enrico Preziosi since the start of the summer and his bid on Sept. 1 was rebuffed by Preziosi who publicly said it undervalued the business.

Preziosi, an Italian tycoon who controls one of the country’s biggest toy manufacturers, Giochi Preziosi, resumed negotiations with Gallazzi on Sept. 18 but the parties are still struggling to reach an agreement on price, the sources said, adding Preziosi wants more cash.

Among the main sticking points is the valuation of Genoa’s football players and its credits to other Serie A clubs, one of the sources said.

Gallazzi plans to finance his bid by raising equity and debt via GCFC, a UK-based financial vehicle created for this deal, which has Gustavo Perrotta, a manager of Mayfair-based merchant bank Hamilton Ventures, among its directors.

Preziosi, 69, established Genoa in Serie A during his 14-year reign. He has been looking for a buyer for Genoa for years and reiterated his intention to sell last spring.

Fellow Serie A clubs including AC Milan, AS Roma and FC Inter have also recently been taken over by foreign owners.

For Genoa an eventual takeover by a UK-based financial entity would be something of a homecoming as the club was founded in 1893 by English doctor James Richardson Spensley.

Additional reporting by Maiya Keidan; Editing by Adrian Croft