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Ownership drama at AC Milan hits fever pitch

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Who owns Milan right now? Who will own Milan at the end of the week? Nobody knows!

34th Annual Walter Kaitz Foundation Fundraising Dinner Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for The Walter Kaitz Foundation

The ownership drama at AC Milan has gone completely overboard. Between hedge funds and dodgy Chinese owners to super-agents and Russian billionaires, there are a lot of people currently rumored to be interested in owning the Rossonero. So what is going on?

The first thing that is clear is that Yonghong Li will no longer be owner of Milan. He’s run out options to keep the club in his name, and since he missed the deadline to pay Elliott Management back the emergency loan of €32 million, Elliott has started the process to repossess the assets of Li, namely AC Milan. Li already owes over €300 million to Elliott that he borrowed to complete the purchase of Milan in April of 2017. Li has been looking for new investors for months, but as of right now, those efforts look to be in vain and he has no way of paying Elliott back the emergency loan of €32 million, much less the full amount that is due in October.

The second issue is if Li will be able to reach an agreement to sell the club before Elliott takes over the club. Rocco Commisso, the American businessman who is in talks to take over the club, is still the only confirmed potential buyer. Other Americans that have been rumored to be interested in purchasing Milan are Chicago Cubs owner Thomas Ricketts and Stephen Ross, who owns the Miami Dolphins. While there might be interest on their parts, until a firm bid is made, the likelihood of one of them owning Milan at the end of this saga is slim. Li has been in talks with Commisso for weeks, and as far as we know, only Commisso has gotten permission from the powers-that-be in Italy to purchase the club.

The potential “mystery” buyers are a whole other part of this mess. Over the weekend, it was reported that a Russian billionaire was interested in purchasing Milan as well as an Asian buyer. The Russian that is now rumored to be interested in Milan is the current owner of Ligue 1’s Monaco, Dmitry Rybolovlev. UEFA rules don’t allow a single owner to own multiple teams in the same league or competition, but that hasn’t stopped Red Bull from owning both RB Leipzig and RB Saltsburg, so that issue could be easily be smoothed over.

As for a rumored Asian buyer, there have been very few details. It’s been reported that super agent Jorge Mendes, who is the agent for a number of famous players such as Milan’s Andre Silva, is involved as an intermediary for the Asian buyers. Mendes already has links to the owners of England’s Wolverhampton Wanderers, Guo Guangchang and Fosun International. Fosun has an ownership stake in Mendes’ football agency and Mendes has been acting as an “advisor” to the club in the transfer market, steering players such as Ruben Neves, Rui Patricio, and Ivan Cavaleiro from clubs in Portugal to Wolves.

Of course, any meeting with Mendes could just be about the status of Andre Silva or Radamel Falcao or the transfer of any other Mendes client to Milan. After all, Milan seems to be dipping into the bargain bin for players these days, as the only signings so far have been with players out of contract.

And finally, what about Elliott Management? Elliott right now pretty much holds all the cards in regards to the ownership of the club. They are still owed a large sum of money by Li, and he doesn’t appear to have any way to pay it back. And even if legal measures are taken and courts get involved, at the end of the day it appears that Elliott Management has the best shot of coming out of all of this with the ownership of the club.

So will Elliott run the club and attempt to increase the value of Milan in order to get a better price? Or will Elliott merely flip the club to any number of interested buyers? Up until now, it has appeared that most of the potential owners have been negotiating with Li and not Elliott. If Elliott do decide to flip Milan to another buyer, another whole set of negotiations will have to take place, and those will take time.

It is rumored, however, that the Ricketts have been in talks with Elliott Management about Milan. One potential outcome of all of this would be that once Elliott takes control of the club, that a sale to Thomas Ricketts and his family would immediately follow.

This whole saga seemed to be coming to an end on Friday, when Li missed the deadline to pay Elliott the €32 million, but with almost everything that involves large sums of money, it appears that lawyers and courts are going to get involved. There will be an end to all of this, eventually, but it doesn’t look like it will be very soon.

With the transfer market in full swing, and a lack of activity from Milan, it doesn’t look like very much cash will be made available to swing any transfer deals. It would be best for the owners, whoever they end up being, to get this resolved as soon as possible and let the club continue its plans for the upcoming Serie A season. It’s never a boring time to be a Milan fan, and this is no different, right?