MILAN (AP) — Less than two weeks after celebrating AC Milan’s league title win with thousands of fans, Gerry Cardinale is on the verge of becoming the new owner of the storied Serie A club.
Cardinale is the founder and managing partner of American investment firm RedBird Capital Partners, which has signed a preliminary agreement to buy Milan for 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion).
Milan said Wednesday that RedBird is expected to complete the purchase from fellow American firm Elliott Management by September at the latest. The announcement comes 10 days after Cardinale was pictured joining in celebrations in Piazza del Duomo, in front of the city’s iconic cathedral, after the Rossoneri clinched the scudetto.
“I had the opportunity to be a fan and I went into the piazza in the celebrations and no one knew who I was,” Cardinale told reporters on Wednesday. “And I have to say, I’ve been around many Super Bowl championships, many World Series championships, many NBA finals and championships, I have never seen what I saw last Sunday.
“It touched me as a human being. It touched me as a fan, and I have to say, it reminded me of the responsibility we have to be good stewards of this incredible club.”
It was Milan’s 19th Serie A title but its first in 11 years. The seven-time European champion last won the Champions League in 2007.
Cardinale spent Wednesday morning in talks with the Milan directors as well as visiting the club museum.
“We spent a couple of hours going through the museum and I was really struck by the history that is here,” he said. “You don’t have that kind of history in America, but there is a rich history here.
“And my job is to be a good steward of this incredible team.”
RedBird also has a stake in Fenway Sports Group, which owns English Premier League club Liverpool as well as the Boston Red Sox in the U.S.
RedBird is set to become Milan’s fourth owner of the team in five years.
U.S.-based hedge firm Elliott has owned Milan since 2018 after the club’s former Chinese owner failed to repay part of a loan. Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi controlled Milan for more than 30 years before selling to the Chinese group in 2017.
“I think there’s a tremendous virtue in continuity,” Cardinale said. “I think the Elliott team, the management team here, they’ve done a phenomenal job over the course of their ownership, and I’d like to continue that trajectory.
“This is a winning culture. It is a winning history. I hate losing. I want to win. Now, sports today is different than when I started 25 years ago. Sports today is big business, there’s a lot of capital coming into sports, our job is to be responsible stewards, not just stewards.”
Milan had finished sixth a couple of months before Elliott took over. It was also embroiled in a case with UEFA over financial fair play breaches that later saw it voluntarily withdraw from the 2019-2020 Europa League to avoid penalties.
“When Elliott acquired AC Milan in 2018, we inherited a club with a tremendous history, but with serious financial problems and a mediocre sporting performance,” Elliott managing partner Gordon Singer said. “Our plan was simple: to create financial stability, and to return AC Milan to where it belongs in European football. Today, I believe we have accomplished both.
“As we make this remarkable transition to AC Milan’s next chapter, I want to express our deepest sense of humility, pride and above all gratitude for the experiences we have shared with each member of the AC Milan family.”
Elliott, which will retain a minority stake in the club, had seemed set to sell Milan to a private equity firm based in Bahrain but the exclusive negotiations were ended recently after it failed to come to a commercial agreement with Investcorp.
That paved the way for RedBird to enter.
“I want to thank Gordon Singer and the entire Elliott team for the tremendous work they have done over the last four years in rebuilding Milan and returning it to its rightful place at the top of Serie A,” Cardinale said.
"RedBird’s investment philosophy and track record in team ownership has shown that football clubs can be successful on the pitch and sustainable off it.”