BEIJING: Chinese electronics giant Suning said it will take a majority stake in Italy’s Inter Milan on Monday, making the three-time European champions the most high-profile acquisition yet by investors from China.
Suning will pay 270 million euros ($306 million) for about 70 percent of the northern Italian team, one of the biggest clubs in European football which is now entirely in foreign hands for the first time.
“Buying Inter Milan is part of Suning’s overall layout in the sports industry,” Suning Holdings Group chairman Zhang Jindong said at a press briefing. “It is an important part of Suning’s international development.”
Suning promised to inject funds to take Inter, who finished fourth in this season’s Serie A, back into the top 10 of European clubs by consistently qualifying for the Champions League.
“Suning will inject a steady stream of capital investment in Inter Milan, which will help it attract more talented players worldwide to once again win glory with strong backing,” said Zhang.
Inter’s great cross-town rivals AC Milan, with whom they share the city’s iconic San Siro stadium, are also in talks with Chinese investors over a possible sale following 30 years under the control of former Italy prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Inter, who are 18-time Italian champions, have been under foreign control since 2013, when Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir took a 70 percent stake.
Under the new deal, Thohir’s International Sports Capital becomes the sole minority shareholder and Thohir retains his position as club president.
Massimo Moratti, Inter’s former president who oversaw a period of success including Italy’s first league, Cup and Champions League treble in 2010, departs the club.
World football superpower
Inter now becomes the biggest acquisition yet in what has been a spending spree by Chinese investors, spurred by President Xi Jinping’s ambitions to import talent and expertise that can turn China into a global football power.
Last December, state-backed China Media Capital snapped up a 13 percent stake in Manchester City for $400 million, and real estate powerhouse Dalian Wanda owns 20 percent of Spain’s Atletico Madrid.
In January, Chinese model car-maker Rastar completed a 54 percent acquisition of Spain’s Espanyol, and last month Aston Villa accepted an $87 million offer from Chinese businessman Tony Xia.
Suning also owns Chinese Super League club Jiangsu Suning, which twice broke the Asian transfer record this year to sign Ramires from Chelsea for 28 million euros and Shakhtar Donetsk’s Alex Teixeira for 50 million euros.
President Xi is a known football fan and in 2011—when he was then vice president—he laid out three hopes for China’s soccer future: to qualify for another World Cup, to host a World Cup and to win a World Cup.
Sport planners hope to turn China into a “world football superpower” by 2050, with a target of 50 million people playing the game by 2020, according to a plan published by the Chinese Football Association in April.