Serie A side AC Milan in August 2022 officially announced the sale of the club to an American ownership group led by RedBird Capital investments.
The ownership group also includes Yankee Global Enterprises, parent company of the New York Yankees, a Major League Baseball club.
Reports on the announcement revealed the involvement of celebrity owners LeBron James and Drake, who are also part of the consortium as passive investors.
The deal, initially announced on a preliminary basis back in early June, is for a gargantuan €1.2 billion (£1 billion / $1.21 billion), though significantly less than the $3.1 billion which Chelsea sold for only months before.
The former AC Milan owners, American investment firm Elliott Management, will reportedly retain a minority ownership stake and hold seats on the board.
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Who are RedBird Capital Partners?
Founded in 2014, RedBird Capital Partners is an American private equity investment firm.
The firm is “focused on building high-growth companies alongside entrepreneurs,” according to executive profiling website The Marque. The company has four areas of focus for its investments: sports, media, consumer, and financial services. RedBird claims to manage over $7.5 billion in assets following the new addition of AC Milan.
“We deploy capital over time and apply in-house industry expertise to create business platforms that drive terminal value,” RedBird states on its official website.
The company has a previous relationship with the New York Yankees, as RedBird Capital owns a partial stake in the YES Network, which is the Yankee-centric cable channel that carries many of the Yankees’ game broadcasts. YES will be showing encore presentations of AC Milan matches in the USA.
“We… are excited to play a role in the club’s next chapter as it returns to its rightful place at the very top of Italian, European and world football,” RedBird founder and managing partner Gerry Cardinale said in a statement.
Cardinale founded RedBird Capital Partners in 2014 after spending over 20 years working at investment banking company Goldman Sachs as a partner and private equity executive. RedBird currently owns several sports and media properties, including French club Toulouse, a stake in Fenway Sports Group, the XFL, and the Rajasthan Royals Indian cricket team.
“Central to Gerry’s investment philosophy has always been hands-on, senior-level involvement in the portfolio in partnership with the founders and entrepreneurs behind his investments,” his official bio reads. “To that end, in addition to his broad CIO portfolio-level and firm responsibilities at RedBird, he is personally active with a number of portfolio companies including the YES Network, Fenway Sports Group, Skydance Media, Compass Data Centers, The SpringHill Company, Wasserman Media Group and the XFL.”
Drake, LeBron join AC Milan ownership group
As part of the takeover, the Financial Times reports that the Yankee Global Enterprises has joined forces with Los Angeles-based investment firm Main Street Advisors as part of their minority ownership stake in AC Milan.
Main Street Advisors boasts investment from NBA star LeBron James and recording artist Drake. They are now included as passive owners of AC Milan as part of the deal.
It is the second time in the last year that the two groups have invested together in a sports-focused business venture. Last November, they joined forces in sports technology company StatusPRO, which is projected to be valued at $57 billion by 2027.
New York Yankees soccer ownership
With their minority stake in AC Milan, Yankee Global Enterprises are now involved with a second soccer club.
The Yankees are also part-owners of MLS club New York City FC, in an ownership group alongside City Football Group, which has a stable of clubs across the world including Manchester City. The two joined forces to launch NYCFC back in 2013 upon its inception as the 20th MLS club.
“We have a multi-decade relationship with the New York Yankees and the Steinbrenner family that has resulted in the creation of some of the most successful businesses in sports, entertainment and hospitality,” Cardinale said in a statement on Milan’s website upon announcing the completion of the sale.
“We are very pleased to continue our partnership with them and will look to explore opportunities together to broaden our fan reach and expand commercial opportunities that are only available to franchises that operate at the highest levels of sports globally.”
Previous AC Milan owners
Since former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi sold the club in 2017, it has been passed on to several different owners.
Acquiring the club from Berlusconi in 2017 was Chinese businessman Li Yonghong, but he failed to meet various financial benchmarks and deadlines as part of the deal. That saw Elliott Management take over by default, after the company had backed Yonghong’s deal.
Since acquiring the club and improving the club’s finances, Elliott Management has been looking for a buyer, successfully executing a deal with RedBird Capital.