Bee's AC Milan dream over

Bee's AC Milan dream over

AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi and his daughter Barbara watch a match between his club and Palermo at the San Siro stadium in Milan. (Reuters Photo)
AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi and his daughter Barbara watch a match between his club and Palermo at the San Siro stadium in Milan. (Reuters Photo)

MILAN -- A Chinese consortium is said to be weeks away from completing a takeover of the football club AC Milan, bringing an end to a months-long flirtation between owner Silvio Berlusconi and Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol.

If confirmed, the deal would prove a dramatic about-turn for Berlusconi, who only weeks ago said he would not sell a majority share in the seven-time European champions.

The former Italian prime minister reportedly has turned his attention away from Mr Bee, with whom he had a preliminary agreement to sell a 48% stake, and is now examining an offer that would put the club -- founded by English lace-maker Herbert Kilpin in 1899 -- into Chinese hands.

The investment contemplated by Mr Bee was reported last year to be worth 480 million euros.

Mr Bee, a veteran financier and investor, is the chairman of the SET-listed semiconductor maker Electronics Industry Plc (EIC). Last year EIC announced investments in two sports businesses that drew questions from local market authorities.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand expressed concern that EIC might be acquiring a company with a value higher than its total assets with the intention of making a backdoor listing.

Mr Bee is EIC's largest shareholder. A private equity firm that he controls, Thai Prime Investment Ltd, is the second largest. He was believed to be planning to use Thai Prime to acquire AC Milan.

In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport on Saturday, the man brokering the new deal -- Italian-born American Salvatore Galatioto -- said it could be sealed by the end of the current season.

Galatioto, considered one of the 50 most influential men in American sports, told the sports daily: "For obvious reasons I can't reveal the names of the interested parties. All I can say is that it is a very ambitious Chinese group which is very, very interested in the club.

"We have very interesting ideas and projects pertaining to the club, but first we have to strike the deal. I would say that if things go to plan, the deal could be concluded in six to eight weeks."

Galatioto, who owns the sports marketing and business firm Galatioto Sports Partners, added: "Fundamentally, my idea is to be the perfect matchmaker, to find the right person who has strong belief in the project and who, naturally, has the necessary economic and professional credentials to be successful in the long term.

"I'm not just interested in profit. I want to see a club be competitive in sporting as well as financial terms."

Reports on Friday suggested the bidder could be either internet entrepeneur Robert Li or He Xiangjian, who made his fortune in air-conditioning. Both men are among the 10 richest in China, according to the 2015 Forbes rich list.

Galatioto said his email account has been "inundated" with positive messages from frustrated fans.

Milan will not play in the Champions League for a third consecutive season in 2016-17. That failure cost Sinisa Mihajlovic his job on Tuesday. The popular Serbian was replaced by former youth team coach Cristian Brocchi ahead of Sunday's trip to Sampdoria.

Milan sit sixth and are one of several teams fighting to qualify for the Europa League.

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