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Chinese poised to seal takeover of AC Milan

Milan (AFP) – AC Milan’s protracted takeover by a Chinese consortium is scheduled to be concluded on Thursday after months of delays and uncertainty, although mystery surrounds the potential new owners of the seven-time European champions.

Milan’s media tycoon owner, the Italian former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, agreed in August to sell to Sino-Europe Sports (SES) in a deal that valued the Serie A giants at 740 million euros ($785 million).

Delays in making down payments and confusion over the identity of SES held up the takeover, just the latest big-money Chinese move into European football and into Milan.

Yet while Suning, the Chinese owners of city rivals Inter Milan, are well-known throughout China and in the business world, Milan’s potential new owners continue to intrigue.

“Here in China no one knows who they are,” former Italy boss Marcello Lippi, now coach of China, told Sportitalia this week. “Obviously everyone has heard of Suning, who bought Inter.”

SES has been represented in negotiations by Han Li and Yonghong Li, who head the consortium and, according to reports, will hold 25 percent of the shares.

State-backed Haixia Capital was initially expected to claim a 20 percent stake but reports in Italy say it may end up with a larger slice of the pie.

Several months ago the Lis appointed former Juventus and Inter Milan official Marco Fassone as their representative in Italy. He is expected to take over as the club’s new executive director once the deal is concluded.

Han Li and Yonghong Li arrived in Italy this week and reports say they will pore over the final details with Berlusconi’s representatives before signing the deal on Thursday.

Although SES made two separate down payments of 100 million euros last year, it failed to make a scheduled third payment last month.

Berlusconi, who bought AC Milan in 1986 and oversaw the most successful period in its history, gave the Chinese extra time to stump up the cash.

Berlusconi’s son Pier Silvio, a vice-president of Milan, then warned his father would happily keep the club and walk off with the non-refundable deposit if SES pulled out.

A new deadline of April 13 was subsequently set.

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