AC Milan’s seemingly never-ending ownership saga needs to end, sooner rather than later.
In a story that seems to grow new legs and lose old ones almost every day, and shows no real signs of getting solved any time soon, the question of who will own one of Italy’s most historic clubs looms over the club.
Chinese “businessman“ Yonghong Li currently owns the club, and there has been public interest in purchasing a majority stake of the team from both the Ricketts family, who owns the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball, and Rocco Commisso, who is the CEO of Mediacom and owns the New York Cosmos.
Both the Ricketts family and Commisso have made it clear that they are willing to buy at least half of the club. Both have expressed that they are willing to invest in the team, in both the long and short term, and most importantly, we know who both these potential owners are. There are no questions about money for either of them. We know that if either of them were to buy the club, it would be in secure hands that are not only willing to invest in the team, but also know what they are doing. The Ricketts brought the Cubs their first championship in a century through long-term, consistent, focused investment, and would bring the same to Milan. Commisso is more than willing to splash the cash, and said as much, and would be more than a safe pair of hands for the club.
While Commisso is more of a controversial figure than Ricketts, and the two present different roads for the future of Milan (the way I see it is long-term versus short-term), both are more than stable as owners. That is not something Milan currently have. Yonghong Li had to take a massive loan of over €300 million, from American hedge fund Elliott Management. This loan is reportedly due, plus interest, in October. In addition, Li has a payment of €32 million that is due, which if he does not pay, will turn the club over to Elliott. This payment has been delayed multiple times in June, while there were reports and confirmations of negotiations between Li and Commisso, as well as interest from the Ricketts. The general idea was that if the club was purchased, that would include the debt, and the new owner would have very little questions about paying off the debt. That would be good news.
However, Li moved the goalposts on Commisso. Commisso confirmed in a statement that the conditions of buying the club were changed, and that negotiating was difficult, but expressed confidence in a deal eventually getting done. There are also reports that Li can find the money to pay the €32 million, and then that he would try to create a bidding war in a couple months. That would not be great news.
To put it simply, it has become more and more clear that Yonghong Li is not the hero for the club that we may have thought he was when he bought the club last summer. When he acquired the club from Silvio Berlusconi, many thought that he was the solution, after Berlusconi had stopped putting a lot of money into the club. He was a safe pair of hands, but had seemed to fall behind what was needed to compete in the league and internationally. Rossoneri fans got to see a transfer window with plenty of new additions, and the excitement for Milan was there again. Now, we are back to square one.
It is obvious that he is not able to pay the amount that is required, which is a red flag that popped up when the signings of Lucas Biglia and Leonardo Bonucci were delayed. It appears that, in some form or another, Li does not have the money that he made it seem that he did. If he did, you would think this whole saga with Elliott and UEFA Financial Fair Play would have been resolved already. Instead, he had the chance to sell the club to capable owners and seems like he chose to make it difficult. It looks like he wants to milk the chance to sell for as much money as possible. To put it simply, this is not the time for the club to go through this amount of back and forth.
Milan just got banned for a year of European competition, partially because of the uncertainty of their ownership situation and if Milan can actually reach the FFP break-even goals. Milan have the massive loan due to Elliott, who would sell the club to the highest bidder. Milan also, believe it or not, have another season coming up after reaching 6th in Serie A last season, and want to strengthen the squad. It’s hard to make your squad better when there is complete uncertainty about the future. Right now, the ownership is looming as a dark cloud over the team that does not appear to be going away. There was light at the end of the tunnel, with security, commitment, and investment on the other side. Then, Li moved the goalposts on Commisso, and what seemed to be close to ending turned into something that looks to continue for at least the foreseeable future. This is something that the club and the fans do not deserve. This is something that needs to end, so that Milan can get back to football and get back to trying to return to glory.