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Redbird agrees to buy AC Milan soccer club

Redbird Capital Partners has agreed to buy Italy’s AC Milan for 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion), becoming the latest in a growing number of private equity firms taking the helm of Europe’s elite soccer teams.

US-based Redbird is acquiring a majority stake in hedge fund Elliott Management Corp.’s seven-time European champion team, according to a statement on Wednesday that confirmed an earlier report by Bloomberg News.

Elliott will retain a minority stake in the club and seats on its board. He has invested up to €800m in AC Milan since he took ownership in 2018, according to Kieran Maguire, professor of football finance at the University of Liverpool.

Founded by Gerald Cardinale, Redbird manages around $6 billion in assets and is a shareholder in Fenway Sports Group Holdings LLC, owner of English Premier League soccer club Liverpool FC and American baseball team Boston Red Sox. He also has a stake in the French soccer team Toulouse.

“Redbird’s investment philosophy and history of team ownership has proven that soccer clubs can be successful on the pitch and sustainable off it,” Cardinale said in Wednesday’s statement.

The deal continues the foray of US private equity firms into European soccer and comes just days after the purchase of European Premier League club Chelsea FC, which was backed by Clearlake Capital, was completed. On the other hand, Silverlake is one of the investors in Manchester City FC’s owner, City Football Group, while 777 Partners is among the new wave of so-called multi-club owners with stakes in teams from around the world.

Redbird beat out competition from Middle Eastern asset manager Investcorp in the battle for AC Milan. Known as the Rossoneri, the club is one of the biggest names in European football and has just won this season’s Serie A title in Italy.

“A truly historic season has ended as we all hoped, with the long-awaited joy of a Serie A title,” Elliott said in a farewell letter to AC Milan fans. “In passing the baton to Redbird, we emphasized three values: alignment of vision, continuity of purpose, and continued financial strength.”

The transfer of ownership is expected to be completed by September at the latest.

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