Chinese investors buy stake in Parma

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ROME: Chinese businessman Jiang Lizhang’s Desports group has agreed to purchase a 60 percent stake in Italian side Parma, club vice-president Marco Ferrari said Thursday (Friday in Manila).

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Former UEFA Cup winners Parma have earned a Serie B berth next season, two years after bankruptcy led to demotion to the Italian fourth division.

Ferrari told a press conference in the north of Italy that the club had been looking for “a foreign partner” for several months.

“We identified this partner in the person of Jiang Lizhang, president of the Desports group,” he said.

Jiang already owns Spanish La Liga club Grenada and is co-owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves NBA franchise.

He is the founder of Double-Edged Sports (DeSports), a company specialising in marketing and sports rights.

Desports recently acquired retransmission rights for Champions League and Europa League matches in China for the period 2018-2021.

“The first phase of the operation has ended in recent weeks with the arrival of this new partner and a capital increase which has led to a minority stake of 30 per cent,” explained Ferrari.

“The transaction is expected to be concluded in the first week of July with an increase in its stake to 60 percent.”

Both Inter Milan and AC Milan are already under Chinese ownership.

Suning, a leading Chinese appliance retailer, controlled by billionaire Zhang Jindong, spent 270 million euros ($301m) to buy a 68 percent stake in Inter Milan.

And in April AC Milan began life under Chinese ownership in a 740 million-euro deal, which ended former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s 31-year reign as the club’s owner and president and saw businessman Li Yonghong take a 99.93 percent stake in the club.

Parma — winners of the second-tier European competition in 1995 and 1999 — won a play-off against Alessandria 2-0 in Florence last Saturday to win promotion to Serie B.

It was the second consecutive promotion for the club who finished sixth in Serie A in 2014 but could not play in Europe the following season because of financial fair-play rules.

The cash-strapped side finished bottom of the Italian top flight in 2015 and was declared bankrupt in March that year with club president Giampetro Manenti jailed.

In July 2015 Parma Calcio 1913 was created and admitted into the Italian fourth division.

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