AS Roma president James Pallotta, pictured right: ‘I am sure they [Dan and Ryan Friedkin] will be great future owners for AS Roma’ © Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

Italian football club AS Roma has been acquired by Texas-based billionaire Daniel Friedkin in a deal worth €591m, following weeks of negotiation over a purchase price that takes into account the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the sport.

The Serie A team’s existing ownership group, which includes club president James Pallotta, announced the sale to Friedkin Group, the family investment vehicle run by Mr Friedkin and which owns the Gulf States Toyota Distributors car dealership franchise and other business interests. 

Over recent weeks, the deal was revised down from the €750m agreed between the parties late last year. Since then, the pandemic has resulted in a steep fall in revenues for clubs due to lost broadcasting, sponsorship and ticketing income, which has made it difficult to assess the current value of top football clubs.

Mr Pallotta had rejected a revised offer of €575m from Mr Friedkin in May and worked with bankers at Goldman Sachs to search for alternative bidders, according to people familiar with the negotiations. 

But on Thursday, the club announced a €591m deal had been reached, with the transaction expected to be completed by the end of this month.

Under the terms of the all-cash deal, Friedkin Group will acquire the 86.6 per cent controlled by the club’s existing ownership group.

The remainder of AS Roma is owned by public market investors who hold shares in the group on the Milan bourse where the stock is traded. Those shares will be subject to a mandatory offer from the Friedkin Group.

Mr Pallotta said in a statement: “Over the past month, Dan and Ryan Friedkin have demonstrated their total commitment to finalising this deal and taking the club forward in a positive way. I am sure they will be great future owners for AS Roma.”

“All of us . . . are so happy to have taken the steps to become a part of this iconic city and club,” said Mr Friedkin. “We look forward to closing the purchase as soon as possible and immersing ourselves in the AS Roma family.”

A string of leading Italian clubs have been taken over by foreign investors in recent years, each seeking out lucrative television revenues from European competitions. 

In 2016 Suning Holdings, a Chinese retail conglomerate, paid €270m for a 70 per cent stake in Inter Milan. In June 2019, US billionaire Rocco Commisso acquired ACF Fiorentina for an undisclosed sum.

Last year, Elliott Management took control of AC Milan after its previous owner, Chinese businessman Li Yonghong, defaulted on high interest loans provided by the US hedge fund.

Further investment is being sought in Serie A. The league is assessing a number of multibillion-euro bids from private equity and other corporate groups, which are either seeking to take a minority share in the league or provide debt that could allow the body that runs the top division in Italian football to fund its growth plans.




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