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Italian football club AS Roma set for sale to US billionaire

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Via Financial Times

AS Roma, the Italian football club, is nearing a deal to be acquired by a consortium led by US billionaire Daniel Friedkin, said people briefed about the matter, which would make it the latest top Serie A team to change hands in recent years.

The club, which is listed on the Milan stock exchange, is set to be acquired for about €750m, including debt, said one of those people, which would set a new record valuation for a Serie A team. AS Roma has been trying to sell the club for months and has held talks with several interested buyers.

AS Roma is expected to make a statement on Monday confirming that its existing American investors, which include James Pallotta, the club’s president, are nearing a deal with Mr Friedkin and his partners. The people briefed added that a final deal could be agreed within weeks.

Mr Friedkin, whose family owns the Gulf States Toyota Distributors car dealership franchise and other business interests, emerged as the leading buyer in recent weeks, said one person with knowledge of the matter.

The Friedkin Group declined to comment.

The expected deal comes as the US investors who own AS Roma have repeatedly expressed their disappointment with Rome’s local authorities for failing to adequately upgrade or relocate the Stadio Olimpico, the stadium it shares with local rivals Lazio.

Mr Pallotta wrote in a tweet in May: “Maybe a new stadium, big investment and lots of new jobs in Rome is not that important. If fans want a new stadium, they need to demand action.”

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Texas-based Mr Friedkin is expected to go ahead with a plan to build a stadium for AS Roma, said a person close to the matter. An existing project could be approved by the city’s municipality early in 2020, according to Italian media.

Thomas DiBenedetto, a US private equity magnate, led a group of US investors to buy a controlling stake in AS Roma in 2011, making it the first foreign owner of a top Italian club at a time when Serie A had financially slipped behind other leading European leagues.

Since then several teams have ended up in foreign ownership, as buyers seek to monetise the growing television revenues generated by European football competitions.

In 2017 Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian media mogul and former prime minister, sold AC Milan to a little-known Chinese investor for €740m. The Chinese investor was later forced to hand over the club to Elliott Management after it defaulted on a loan provided by the US hedge fund to buy the club in 2017.

Other foreign buyers include Suning Holdings, a Chinese retail conglomerate, which paid €270m for a 70 per cent stake in Inter Milan, while in June US billionaire Rocco Commisso acquired ACF Fiorentina for an undisclosed sum.

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