Chinese retail giant Suning Commerce Group has finally agreed to buy almost 70 percent of Serie A giants Inter Milan for €270 million ($443 million), the highest-profile takeover of a European club so far by a Chinese firm.
Suning confirmed the deal today at a joint news conference with Inter Milan executives, including current majority owner and president Erick Thohir, in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing.
Zhang Jidong, chairman of the Suning group, welcomed the deal as a watershed moment for a growing football market in China.
“Ours is an international business and our brand will soon be big in Europe, too. Now we have an alliance with an international and European top club. Football is growing at an incredible rate in China and the acquisition of Inter is a strategic move,” he said.
“I’m convinced that undertaking Inter, with its glorious history, is a mission, a responsibility. I’ve become passionate about Inter, being part of the club is a huge responsibility. I thank Thohir for choosing us.”
With President Xi Jinping, an avid supporter of football, Suning’s deal to take control of Inter Milan, which last won the European Champions League in 2010, is the latest step in a plan to create a global sports empire stretching from soccer clubs to online broadcasting.
A person familiar with the matter earlier said that Suning will buy a 68.55 percent stake in the Italian club.
Thohir will cut his stake in the club to 31 percent while former president Massimo Moratti will sell off his entire stake in the club of just under 30 percent, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In a statement, the soccer club said Thohir will stay on as president and become the sole minority shareholder in Inter Milan, while Moratti will exit the club.
Inter are now the third club in Serie A to fall under foreign ownership, with Roma and Bologna controlled by respective American and Canadian groups.
AC Milan are expected to conclude a deal to sell a majority stake to a Chinese consortium in the coming weeks after negotiations with president Silvio Berlusconi.