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Soccer-Berlusconi family could sell 30 pct stake in AC Milan

Source: Reuters - Wed, 2 Apr 2014 15:38 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds comment from Barbara Berlusconi)

MILAN, April 2 (Reuters) - The family of former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi is considering selling a stake of up to 30 percent in AC Milan, bringing in new investors to help try to restore the club to the top of the European game.

The club's co-chief executive Barbara Berlusconi, a daughter of the media magnate, told a news conference on Wednesday Milan was seeking partners and she would travel to the Middle East and later to the United States as part of the process.

Barbara Berlusconi said the family remained committed to AC Milan, seven times European champions, but new minority investors could help the club to fund the building of its own stadium to boost revenue.

"We are looking at various solutions for the stadium which would allow us to make a leap forward and compete with the strongest clubs in Europe," she said.

Milan currently share the Giuseppe Meazza stadium with local rivals Inter. The stadium, known as the San Siro, is owned by the local authorities and that limits how much both teams can earn from the venue.

AC Milan was ranked 10th in the 2012-13 soccer Money League compiled by Deloitte, with revenue of 264 million euros ($364 million).

Rivals Juventus, the Italian champions, have prospered on and off the pitch after moving into a new stadium.

Rumours have been circulating for some time that the Berlusconis were seeking to attract new investors to help revive a team that is struggling in mid-table in Serie A.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Italian soccer has been hit hard by hooliganism and match-fixing scandals and has not seen the kind of heavy foreign investment that clubs in England and France have enjoyed.

However, there are signs that could be changing.

Indonesian business tycoon Erick Thohir and partners bought a majority stake in Inter Milan last November in a deal that reportedly valued the club at about 350 million euros ($483 million). Fellow Italian club AS Roma is controlled by an American investment group.

After buying AC Milan, Berlusconi quickly turned them into the top team in Italy and Europe, winning Serie A in 1988 and the European Cup, the forerunner to the Champions League, in the following two seasons.

Milan's success helped Berlusconi build his profile and launch into politics in the 1990s with a party with the soccer-inspired name "Forza Italia" (Go Italy).

Milan have not won Serie A since 2011 and have seen some of their best players depart in recent seasons, showing how the balance of financial power in European soccer has swung away from Italy. ($1 = 0.7249 Euros) (Reporting by Elisa Anzolin, writing by Valentina Za and Keith Weir; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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