Berlusconi Targets Soccer Return With Purchase of Monza Club

(Bloomberg) -- Silvio Berlusconi is back, at least as the owner of a soccer team.

Italy’s most famous business tycoon and four-time prime minister is close to buying control of third-division soccer club Societa Sportiva Monza 1912 through his family investment company Fininvest SpA, according to people familiar with the matter. Monza is home of Italy’s Formula One race.

The deal could be finalized as soon as Friday and Adriano Galliani, former chief executive officer at AC Milan, the first-division team Berlusconi owned for 20 years, will take the top job at Monza, the people said, asking not to be named since the deliberations aren’t public. Galliani started his career at the Monza team decades ago.

Berlusconi will acquire the team from Nicola Colombo, a local businessman. The value of the deal is about 3 million euros ($3.5 million), the people said, a fraction of what Berlusconi, 81, pocketed in the sale of AC Milan to little-known Chinese investor Li Yonghong.

Berlusconi sold AC Milan, Italy’s most successful club at the international level, two years ago in a 740 million-euro transaction. Billionaire Paul Singer’s fund Elliott Advisors UK Ltd agreed to provide 303 million euros of financing. Elliott then took control of the team after the club’s Chinese owner defaulted on debt obligations.

The ex-premier, who used his fame as the owner of AC Milan as a springboard for his political career, bought the club in 1986. Though Monza, which returned to the third division last season, can’t match AC Milan’s pedigree, Berlusconi’s new team is at least close to his hometown of Arcore, a dozen miles outside Milan.

With his new team, Berlusconi wants to develop young players and is considering to restructure Monza’s stadium, the people said. A representative for Fininvest and a spokesman for the Monza club declined to comment.

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