Soccer Investcorp, Elliott could clinch AC Milan deal this week, sources say

The AC Milan logo is pictured on a pennant in a soccer store in downtown Milan
The AC Milan logo is pictured on a pennant in a soccer store in downtown Milan, Italy April 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/

MILAN, April 26 (Reuters) - Bahrain-domiciled asset manager Investcorp could agree the buyout of Italian soccer club AC Milan as early as this week, when an exclusive negotiation period with U.S. fund Elliott is set to end, sources familiar with the matter said.

Italian soccer clubs have recently become a popular target for overseas investors, attracted by cheaper valuations compared with those of England's Premier league and other rivals in major European championships.

Talks between Investcorp and Elliott are progressing based on a valuation of about 1.18 billion euros ($1.26 billion), including debt, for the former European champions, the sources briefed on the matter told Reuters.

One of the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said parties could sign off on the deal on Friday in what would be the first takeover of a top Italian soccer team by Middle East investors.

Spokespersons for Elliott and Investcorp declined to comment.

Nine of the 20 top-flight Italian clubs are now controlled by foreign investors, including China's Suning Group at Inter Milan and American billionaire Rocco Commisso at Fiorentina.

Investcorp, with a history of turning around upmarket luxury brands, such as Gucci and Tiffany, manages more than $42 billion in assets with business lines including private equity, real estate and infrastructure.

Over the past decade AC Milan have struggled to recreate their heyday under the ownership of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, although performances on the pitch have improved and the team tops the Serie A standings.

Elliott took over the club in 2018 when Chinese businessman Li Yonghong failed to meet some obligations linked to a 300 million euro financing package for the purchase of the team from Berlusconi the year before.

The U.S. investment fund then pressed ahead with a strategy to fix the finances of the seven-time European champions, seeking to contain wage costs while developing commercial revenues, still lagging those of Europe's top clubs.

But it has also faced resistance from local politicians over plans to build a new arena with city rival Inter Milan to replace the San Siro stadium.

AC Milan are expected to cut their annual loss to about 60 million euros in 2021-22 after a loss of 96.4 million the previous financial year, when net financial debt stood at about 100 million euros.

($1=0.9350 euros)

Reporting by Elvira Pollina Editing by Keith Weir and Clarence Fernandez

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.