US billionaire nears purchase of AS Roma football club

Roma teammates celebrate after scoring a goal  during a match between Roma and AC Milan. (AP pic)

MILAN: US billionaire Dan Friedkin is in talks to purchase of Italian football club AS Roma SpA from its main shareholder James Pallotta.

No agreement has been reached and any possible transaction is subject to legal due diligence, the team said in a statement on Monday.

A deal could be finalized by Dec 31 and the value of the team has been set at €780 million, newspaper Il Messaggero reported on Sunday, without citing anyone. Last month AS Roma SPV LLC, which controls the club, said there were preliminary talks with potential investors for a sale.

Friedkin, who is being advised by JPMorgan Chase & Co, will be forced to plan a takeover of AS Roma at a price of 0.62 euros per share under Italian takeover rules, Messaggero said. The football club’s shares rose Friday in Milan trading by nearly 9% to €0.66, giving the company a market value of €413.2 million. Roma has €272 million of debt, Messaggero said.

Pallotta, the chairman of Boston-based hedge fund Raptor Capital Management, may keep a minority stake in the club and could remain as board director, according to the newspaper.

Friedkin is the chief executive of Friedkin Group, the owner of Gulf States Toyota, an independent US vehicle distributor.

Roma’s team, which plays in Italy’s main Serie A league, is currently ranked in fourth place just behind its main local competitor Lazio.

The Agnelli family’s Juventus Football Club SpA and Inter Milan are at the top.