US investment firm Oaktree Capital signs $ 336 million financing deal with Serie A champions FC Inter
Italian football giant FC Inter officially signed a $ 336 million deal with US-based Oaktree Capital Management Group on Thursday.
The club’s majority shareholder – Chinese retail giant Suning Holding Group – hopes the deal will help the struggling team’s finances, severely damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Following a due diligence process and with a collective long-term vision for the project, Inter has today finalized a financing agreement with funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management,” the Nerazzurri told the Italian news agency ANSA.
“With this financing agreement, the shareholder will continue to support Inter to overcome its difficulties and the opportunities lost during the COVID-19 period.”
To avoid weighing down the struggling club’s assets with additional debt, the US fund will grant the loan to Great Horizon Sarl – the Luxembourg-based holding company through which Suning controls FC Inter, the fundraising website of the soccer. Calcio e Finanza reports.
As part of the deal, Suning pledged his 68.55% majority stake in the club as a loan guarantee.
This means that Oaktree could take full control of FC Inter, if its chairman Steven Zhang could not pay off the debt after three years.
Ownership of the Milan-based club is currently shared between Suning, which has owned FC Inter since 2016, alongside Singaporean venture capitalist LionRock Group, which currently holds a 31.05% minority stake.
It remains to be seen whether Oaktree will only partner with Suning to ease the club’s financial woes – leaving the corporate structure intact – or whether the US-based company will replace LionRock Group as the club’s minority shareholder, as Reuters reported.
A possibility which is widely reported as very probable.
According to La RepubblicaSuning would only need $ 40 million from the deal to buy LionRock, the minority shareholder who took over their stake for $ 163 with a loan directly from Suning, obtained through their subsidiary Great Horizon.
Daily Italian La Stampa also cast some shadow of doubt on the communication of the agreement.
the Nerazzurri has not released any official statement on the operation, and the report claims that the “strange lack of transparency” is a plan to keep a much-needed low profile on the club’s board of directors.
FC Inter’s new investors Oaktree Capital are one of the biggest ‘struggling titles’ managers in the world and already have football work experience.
Last year, the Los Angeles-based company bought 80% of the French Ligue 2 squad in Caen, and it also has ties to English league squad Swansea City.
In addition, the group has a strong interest in the Qatar Investment Authority, which counts the French giant Paris Saint-Germain among its partners.
Suning sought new investments to strengthen its finances, especially after last January, when changes in economic planning by the Chinese government further complicated the owner’s liquidity..
The club have been in dire financial straits due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as games are played behind closed doors and several companies cut their sponsorship budgets.
On top of that, Il Sole 24 Ore notes that Suning will seek to refinance two bonds worth $ 456 million that will expire in 2022.
To further complicate the tense situation, FC Inter last month saw the collapse of the European Super League project, a separatist competition that the Nerazzurri founded in the hope of securing an initial injection of $ 367 million.
Lately FC Inter have not paid regular salaries to their players and asked them to give up part of their annual salary, Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera reported.
Last week FC Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta said the club needed to reduce their payroll to keep their business viable, hinting at possible player transfers.