Berlusconi sells AC Milan football club to Chinese group

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has finalised the sale of Serie A giants AC Milan to a Chinese-led consortium for €740m (£627m).

The deal sees the consortium take a 99.9% stake in the club, one of Italy's most successful teams.

It requires the investors to spend €350m (£297m) over three years on improvements.

Mr Berlusconi had owned the club since 1986, leading it to become the most successful Italian team in international competition.

In a statement, the Berlusconi family's holding company, Fininvest, said it had sold its entire 99.93% stake in the club to Luxembourg-based Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux, a company controlled by investor Yonghong Li.

During Mr Berlusconi's reign, AC Milan won eight league titles, one Italian Cup and seven Super Cups as well as five Champions League trophies and five UEFA Super Cups.

But the famous Italian club has slipped from the top in recent years and is currently sixth in Serie A.

"I'm leaving today, after more than 30 years, the title and job of Milan president," the former Italian leader said.

"I do it with pain and emotion, but with the knowledge that in modern soccer, in order to compete at the top European and world levels, you need investment and resources which one single family is not able to sustain."

"I will always be the first fan of Milan."

The deal is billed as the biggest Chinese investment in a European club and follows last year's sale of Inter Milan to retail giant Suning Commerce Group.

The two Milan teams will face off in Saturday's derby.

Chinese consortium CMC also announced in 2015 that it was investing £265m to buy a 13% stake in the company that owns Manchester City.

Property giant Dalian Wanda bought a 20% stake in Spanish club Atletico Madrid in the same year.

The Chinese have also invested heavily in West Midlands clubs West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa, Wolves and Birmingham City.

The investments are aimed to expand the sport in China, where President Xi Jinping is an avid fan who wants to host the World Cup one day and make the national team more competitive.

Mr Xi travelled to Manchester during a visit to the UK in late 2015.

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