Milan: AC Milan moved a step closer to a takeover after the struggling Serie A giants announced the start of "exclusive negotiating rights" with Chinese investors on Tuesday. Club owner Silvio Berlusconi said last week he was open to selling a majority stake in the fallen seven-time European champions, with a preference to keep the club "in Italian hands".
But following the recent collapse of talks with Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol, a statement by Milan on their official website www.acmilan.com suggested Berlusconi's holding company Fininvest is now ready to begin serious negotiations with a Chinese consortium. "Fininvest has reached an agreement with a group of Chinese investors in establishing exclusive negotiating rights for the sale of shares of AC Milan," said the statement.
"A memorandum of understanding has also been signed which will act as a starting point for more in depth negotiations to take place. "The exclusive negotiating rights have been established to be compatible with the complexities of the talks, the needs of the club and the appointments scheduled in the footballing calendar."
On paper, Milan now look to be on the road to an eventual takeover that would see them become the second Milan club, after Inter Milan, to be sold to Asian owners. Inter was taken over by Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir in November 2014. However 'Rossoneri' fans will watch cautiously from the sidelines to see what transpires from the latest chapter in a prolonged epic about the club and it's likely future direction.
In June last year it was announced Taechaubol would purchase a 48 % stake in Milan, although the deal came to nothing after the Thai reportedly failed in his bid to collect the necessary funds. Milan, who last won Serie A's 'scudetto' in 2011 under current Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, host Roma in their final game of the season on Sunday looking for a win that could help them seal European football next season.
But it is a reflection of Milan's failure to invest in top players, and their on-field woes, that they are now merely fighting to qualify for the Europa League -- instead of the Champions League they dominated with some of the world's top players in Berlusconi's 1990s heyday.
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