The Chinese buyers who were seeking funds from lenders to purchase AC Milan provided a false bank report during the initial deal negotiations, according to one of the lenders.
It was agreed last month that the soccer club, owned by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, was to be sold to a group of little-known Chinese investors, the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reported.
Berlusconi’s Fininvest agreed to sell the club to the Chinese the buyers €740 million (USD1.1 billion), and €220 million of debt, but when the Chinese group were asked to provide financial documents, something stirred suspicion.
They provided documents appearing to come from Bank of Jiangsu, claiming to provide transaction details from a consortium member’s account. The owner can’t be named for privacy matters.
However, after queries from Bloomberg, one of the lenders revealed in an email that Bank of Jiangsu said it hadn't issued any such document detailing the account's transactions.
The consortium, known as Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing, is made up of buyers and lenders and led by businessman Li Yonghong. They apparently deny sending the document in discussion.
SMH quoted the consortium as saying that it “does not confirm it has ever sent such a document… As we have already factually demonstrated, we stay committed on the closing of the deal."
Despite the claims by the lender, Fininvest said in a statement on Tuesday it "does not confirm having received the specific documentation under discussion and has no intention to comment on it."
Fininvest still seem determined on closing the deal despite the hiccup. It was reported that Fininvest continues to work on finalizing the deal by the end of the year, and the Chinese consortium has already paid a non-refundable deposit of €100 million in two installments, Fininvest said earlier this month.
Apparently Li's group is considering building a new stadium as part of its expansion plans, people with knowledge of the matter said as recently as last week.
AC Milan has failed to win a major trophy since 2011, but according to Fininvest, the buyers have committed to investing €350 million in the club over the next three years.
Should the deal go through, Chinese investors would control both major Milan soccer teams, after Suning Holdings Group Co.’s bought Inter Milan in June.
[Images via AC Milan, Wikipedia]