Burlisconi may retain majority stake in AC Milan

AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi. (Antonio Calanni/AP)

MILAN — AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi is exploring selling a stake to an investment group headed by a Thai businessman but the former Italian prime minister plans to retain control of the prestigious Serie A club.

Bee Taechaubol, who runs the Thai Prime private equity group, held further talks in Milan on Saturday with Berlusconi, who has owned the 18-time Italian champions for almost 30 years.

Fininvest, the holding company for Berlusconi’s business interests, described the meeting as "positive" and said Bee’s funding and links in Asia can "reap the resources" required to restore the glory days to Milan.

"The proposed collaboration, which still has many points to be defined, foresees the purchase of a minority share by a financial conglomerate and that the control of the club remains firmly in the hands" of Berlusconi, Fininvest said in a statement.

That contradicted recent reports that Bee could be buying more than 51 per cent of Milan, although Berlusconi himself said on Saturday there was a "possibility" he would remain the majority shareholder.

"Soon we will meet again to be able to define every aspect of Milan’s future," the 78-year-old Berlusconi said. "For me it is an affair of the heart, which is so very important and completely outside all of the normal rapports with companies."

No details were provided in the statement about Bee and Thai Prime.

"I want to thank the president for this opportunity," Bee said. "There are still a few things we have to work on, there are several remaining details we need to define and we will continue to work together. We hope to finish everything as soon as possible."

Berlusconi, who was Italian premier three times, took over Milan in February 1986 and presided over its most successful era as the team won 28 trophies, including eight Serie A titles and five European Cups.

However, Milan’s form has dipped in recent years, with the team currently 10th in Serie A, having not won the title since 2011.

"My concern is that Milan returns to the top in Italy, in Europe and in the world," Berlusconi said. "I found Mr. Bee to be a very serious person who has respected all the technical parameters of the contract. We’ve become friends and we think we can do good things continuing our rapport.

"The deal will allow the brand of Milan, which is the most recognized football club in the world, to spread its marketing influence in Asian countries and we are working on that."

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