RedBird Capital Partners completed its purchase of Italian football club AC Milan, with the parent company of the New York Yankees joining as a co-investor on the deal.
“Our vision for Milan is clear,” RedBird founder Gerry Cardinale in a statement. “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.”
The New York-based investment firm agreed to acquire a controlling stake in the seven-time European champions from hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. in a deal that valued the club at 1.2 billion euros ($1.2 billion). The transaction includes a 600 million euro loan from Elliott.
Alternative-asset managers have flocked to sports franchises, and particularly European football, as leagues have loosened ownership restrictions. In one of the year’s highest-profile deals, Clearlake Capital Group supported Todd Boehly’s purchase of English Premier League team Chelsea FC from Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
RedBird manages about $7.5 billion and is a shareholder in Fenway Sports Group Holdings, which owns Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC of England’s Premier League. It also owns French football team Toulouse.
Yankee Global Enterprises, the MLB franchise’s parent company, also has a stake in YES Network and New York City FC, a Major League Soccer team. A person familiar with the group’s plans said it was exploring hosting AC Milan content on YES, which is also owned by RedBird, Amazon.com Inc. and Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.
“First and foremost is putting a very competitive world-class football team on the pitch and consistently winning in the spirit and tradition of the New York Yankees,” Cardinale said of his plans for the club. “But also recognizing what this is — probably one of the best live event entertainment companies that you could see in the world.”
“There’s real potential here for not only resurrecting a sleeping giant and getting back to the top of European football, but creating something that’s truly global,” he said.
Main Street Advisors is also a co-investor on the deal, according to people familiar with the matter. Started 25 years ago by Paul Wachter, it focuses on athletes, musicians and entertainment executives. Wachter was the lead negotiator on LeBron James’s lifetime agreement with Nike Inc. He has also invested in Fenway Sports Group alongside RedBird.
AC Milan, known as the Rossoneri, has won the Champions League and its predecessor competition seven times, second only to Real Madrid, and is among the most recognizable names in European football.
The team is currently third in Serie A, after winning the league last season for the first time since 2011.