Skip to main content

Takeover Blunders

People with a cursory knowledge of the sale of the club are trusting and relaxed about the deal. To be honest, it seems that they see euro signs and fantasize about the players we’ll sign and skip all of the parts in between where the sale actually happens or not. Well, and there are plenty of fans who think we’re still having a big January mercato. They’re in for a rude awakening. But the truth is far from this fantasy world. The truth is that this deal is far from done, and there is still the very real possibility that it may never happen in spite of the €200m Fininvest has already received. Even if it does get done, the blunders of this imaginary consortium are quite extensive. And that means that after they take the club over, we may wish they never had.

So close and yet so far. Who keeps moving that line? Oh yeah.

To review, here are some of their missteps thus far:

1) Failure to close. A group of potential Chinese investors entered into an exclusive negotiation deal with Fininvest on May 10th of this year. They had 45 days to close the deal, which all involved felt was more than adequate. Yet 45 days later, they asked for more time. And more time. And the mercato we had all been looking forward to was quickly slipping away. Finally, on August 5th, a mysterious splinter group of the original group (which had originally included the famous Sal Galiatoto,) signed an agreement to buy the club and close the deal by the end of 2016. First it was going to be October. Then November. Then for sure by December 13th. Then February 28th. Now the date is March 3, 2017. If you had conceived a child when negotiations officially began, it would be born before the deal closes. If the deal closes.

2) Ability to pay. The contract required them to put down only €15m as a deposit, with the other €85m due within 35 days. While they managed the extraordinarily small initial sum, and the remaining amount within that first deadline, their inability to come up with the rest of the money before the binding contract expires at the end of this year is incredibly disconcerting. Especially considering that it was their ability to cover the debts and inject new capital that Berlusconi said he was selling to them for. And if they were able to get €100m out of the country in a week’s time this week, why not the remainder to close the deal after seven months? If getting money out of the country is such a big issue now, who says they will be able to fulfill their commitments later? If this “binding contract” is so easily waived now, who is to say they won’t waive it entirely later?

Moving large sums of money can be difficult. Except when it's conveniently not.

3) Mystery investors. This mystery consortium now identified as Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing Co. is represented by Han Li and led by the chairman Li Yonghong. Oh, and there’s Haixia Capital, too. That is all we know. Much has been reported on other companies or people involved, but not confirmed by either Fininvest or Sino-Europe. And Fininvest finally asking for full disclosure of the investors last week led to the new payment of €100m, but still no identities revealed. A perfect example of hush money… they pay Fininvest so that Sino Europe can stay hushed about their identities.

Not only does no one know who the identified investors are, what little is known about the ones who are named is disconcerting. In September, it was discovered that Li Yonghong was penalized for a stock sale four years ago, for example. If he’s the chairman, how are we supposed to trust that he’ll manage Milan well? If no one in China knows who he is, where will he find the roughly €1 billion in funds to complete the sale? Particularly the stipulated annual investments in the club? And does he even have the consortium yet? Because we already addressed getting the money out of China, so that question seems far more more logical.

A first time club CEO could be a gamble, but other choices are more questionable

4) Personnel choices. Marco Fassone as CEO was slightly controversial. Despite his time at rival clubs, he has no experience as a CEO of anything, least of all a club like AC Milan. But despite his experience being primarily in marketing as well has so much experience in Serie A, he seemed like he might do okay. It was Massimiliano Mirabelli who angered a lot of ex-players and fans. Hired to be Milan’s next Sporting Director, while his experience was exclusively in scouting (let alone at Inter,) it’s a bigger stretch to think he’s not in over his head. Then came all of the reports of which players these two were scouting – especially the players that Montella had specifically said he didn’t want. Of course, they hadn’t talked to him anyway. I mean why talk to the coach about the kind of players he wants and/or needs? Are they really looking for success or just hell-bent on doing things their own way?

But the biggest blunder in the personnel department was not only not convincing Paolo Maldini to come back to the club, but how they handled it. Their statements were like a teenage girl on social media, and they did not do themselves any favors with the fans or anyone else. Also, they still haven’t hired anyone from the club such as a past captain like they had talked about, and it’s getting harder for anyone to take them seriously the longer the closing takes to happen. The reasons Maldini refused - transparency, organizational structure and planning - have become more obvious already. If they can’t even meet deadlines or close a deal, how will they run a club? If they say they want to stay true to the club, but instead hire management from our rival club and completely ignore Milan’s legends, how will that work?

One of these San Siro legends is working for his club, the other is smart enough not to

5) Missing out on two transfer markets. Speaking of running a club, if their intent is to bring Milan back to greatness, then how can they let not just one mercato, but now two slip by without any proper investments for the club’s success and development? Words are cheap, but they still cost more than Milan will have spent this past summer and again in January. This part is truly mindboggling to me. While our young team is getting much better than expected results, everyone acknowledges that certain reinforcements are needed to truly contend again. The bureaucracy line is only believable for so long, particularly when they whip out an additional €100m in one week after claiming that getting money out of the country is the problem.

6) Lack of respect or accountability. Berlusconi doesn’t know who the members of the consortium are. Fininvest don’t know who the members are. Lega Serie A and the FIGC don’t know who they are. Tavecchio pointed out a while back that members of the Suning Group who bought Inter had met with the FIGC ahead of buying their majority shares as a sign of good faith and respect for Serie A’s governing body. And he still has not even heard from the members who are known. Or Fassone or Mirabelli, either. Not only does this show a lack of respect for the people whom they theoretically will be working with come March 3rd, it shows a lack of accountability to the league and to the FIGC. Which compounds the lack of respect and accountability they have shown to the club, the Milan Legends, and the fans thus far.

Agreements not kept, words without actions, mystery and disrespect... not going so well

When the second portion of the first deposit came through, it allayed a lot of my fears. But look at what has happened since. On top of all of the initial delays. Those are a lot of failings for one deal. And the excuses are getting more and more far-fetched. Their initial words and plans now stand in stark contrast to what is actually being done. And it’s more than just closing the deal, it’s how they are already operating. Or perhaps I should say not operating? I am no longer certain what I fear most: the deal not going through at all or the deal going through and our beloved club being run by this mystery group who struggle to get anything done right. It gets more and more frightening every day as the takeover blunders keep piling up.

This post inspired by the music of NIN’s “Head Like a Hole”

Our next match is
Milan vs. Atalanta
Saturday, December 17 • 18:00 CET (12noon EST)