So then, has the Thai businessman, Bee Taechaubol just signed a “pact with the Devil”? In this case, the devil in question is nothing less than Serie A giant Milan, oft knicknamed “Il Diavolo”.
Last weekend, Mr. Taechaubol and Milan owner, media tycoon and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, finally put pen to paper to wrap up a deal which will see Taechaubol, founder of the Thai Prime Company Limited, splash out €480-€500 million euro for a 48% holding in Milan. Signficantly, Mr. Berlusconi chose to abandon his habitual work environment of Arcore, near Milan to do the deal, taking his guest to his magnificent seaside Sardinian spread, Villa Certosa, on Saturday to conclude the deal.
Photos in various sports media show the two men sitting at a table in Villa Certosa, with two contracts (presumably signed) and two pens in front of them. Another pic carried by Gazzetta Dello Sport today shows Mr. Bee in the Berlusconi private jet on his way back to Milan at the end of the day, toasting the successful conclusion of the deal with various Milan and Taechaubol advisors.
Just one year after media rumours suggested that Mr. Berlusconi might be interested in selling his club and seven months after it was reported that Mr. Taechaubol had met with Mr. Berlusconi last Christmas, the pact has been signed. One is entitled, though, to wonder just how this deal will function.
In the end, Mr. Berlusconi has retained a majority 52% shareholding. Whilst he and his new partner see eye to eye, all will be well. But what happens when the two men have different views about the way forward for a club which, notwithstanding recent disappointing years (Milan finished 10th in Serie A last season), is still one of the great powerhouses of Italian and European football?
As it is, the new Milan board already looks just a little strange, with three different people seemingly holding the same title, that of “amministratore delegato” (managing director). Firstly, there is the club’s longtime successful director, Adriano Galliani, a trusted advisor who has worked alongside Mr. Berlusconi for the last 35 years. At AC Milan since the day Mr. Berlusconi purchased the club in February 1986, Galliani has done the day to day running of the club on behalf of his otherwise politically engaged patron for much of the last 29 years.
Also on the board as a managing director is Mr. Berlusconi’s daughter, Barbara. Thus far, she and Mr. Galliani have divided up their responsibilities between the commercial (Barbara) and the sporting (Galliani). One aspect of the new Taechaubol deal sees the appointment of a third managing director, someone appointed by Taechaubol in order to oversee the club’s commercial strategy and activity in Asia and the rest of the world, bar Europe. Will too many cooks spoil this particular broth?
In theory, the new Milan board will divide up 7-5 or 7-6 in favour of majority sharedholder, Mr. Berlusconi, who remains club President whilst Mr. Taechaubol will become Deputy President. Another question mark for the future concerns a hoped-for launch on the Hong Kong stock exchange. As it is, AC Milan is not a stock market quoted public company but that may change further down the line.
For his part, however, the new (part)-owner, Taechaubol was making all the right noises last weekend, commenting:
“We have signed a deal which will very shortly allow our investors to work for the club. President Berlusconi is an important businessman and we are in agreement that we want to see AC Milan continue to grow worldwide…You are going to see me much more often around here, we will be working hard together in order to win…”
Widely considered to be the most supported Italian club outside of Italy, Milan, of course, are second only to Real Madrid in the all time winners list of Champions Cup/Leagues, having won the title seven times as opposed to Real’s ten triumphs.
It would not be the summer if some “ultras” did not distinguish themselves by less than peaceful behaviour during a pre-season friendly. Last weekend, the culprits were some of the Napoli ultra who managed to set fire to some scrubland close to Nice’s Allianz Riviera stadium, prior to a friendly which saw Napoli lose 3-2.
Warned by Italian counterparts of possible problems, the French police authorities put out a Level 2 alert for the game. Apparently, one of the “reasons” for the alleged trouble is related to the fact that the Nice fans have established good relations with Inter Milan fans, a longtime “enemy” of the Napoli ultras. As the new season gears up, it seems that the ultras intend to continue being ultras, following a “logic” all of their own.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Fiorentina’s 2-1 friendly win on Sunday night against Barcelona concerns not so much the result as the fact that the game marked yet another important moment in the ongoing recovery of injury-prone Pepito Rossi.
The former Manchester United striker played for the entire second half of a game which saw him in competitive action at the Franchi stadium for the first time since May 18 of last year. Early days yet but Rossi looks launched on the right road, something underlined by the Fiorentina fans who greeted him with a banner which read:
“Welcome back, Pepito. The setting sun always rises again and a true warrior comes back to celebrate at the Fiesole Kop”.
As for the game, worth underlining two early goals scored by Fiorentina’s Italian U 21 international, Federico Bernardeschi. When it came to allotting the team shirt numbers for the new season, the ambitious Bernardeschi opted for the heaviest number in the business, namely No. 10 (last year he wore 29). In the past, some useful fellows such as Giancarlo Antognoni and Roberto Baggio have worn that shirt at Fiorentina. The fans are doubtless hoping that Bernardeschi will prove to be of the same class.