southampton-confirm-serbian-cable-tv-100m-takeover-deal

Southampton confirm Serbian cable-TV £100m takeover deal

Southampton have confirmed a Serbian-born cable television tycoon has completed a £100m takeover of the club.

Sky News had reported on Tuesday afternoon that Dragan Solak, founder of United Group, has invested a chunk of his fortune in a controlling stake in the Saints, who sit 14th in the table, 10 points clear of the relegation zone.

Southampton have now confirmed the deal which sees Sport Republic, a London-based investment firm in the sports and entertainment industry, acquire a controlling stake in the club.

The takeover brings an end to the majority ownership of Gao Jisheng, a Chinese businessman who bought an 80 per cent stake in the club in 2017.

Katharina Liebherr retains her 20 per cent minority shareholding.

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A club statement read: “Southampton Football Club can today confirm that Sport Republic has completed the

acquisition of a controlling stake in Southampton Football Club.

“Sport Republic is an investment firm in the sports and entertainment industry. They have purchased the shareholding of the club held by Mr Gao and will work in partnership with Katharina Liebherr who retains her minority shareholding.

“Everyone within the Southampton community would like to wish Mr Gao and his family well for their future.”

Mr Solak is understood to be behind a new holding company which will examine offers for clubs in other international leagues, replicating a strategy employed by the owners of Manchester City.

Rasmus Ankersen, the former Brentford co-director of football, and Henrik Kraft, a London-based investor, are also involved in the Southampton takeover.

Solak said: “My partners and I have experience in long-term investments in the sports and entertainment industry and Sport Republic has been founded to combine this expertise and deliver something unique to the market.

“Southampton has so many of the qualities we have been looking for in a major sports organisation. It has a great management team, excellent talent development, talented teams playing attractive football and a dedicated fan base.

“We are delighted to be able to complete this acquisition as a first step towards execution of our investment strategy. Southampton will be a cornerstone of the organisation we plan to build.”

Southampton have been seeking a new owner for months.

It is the first deal to have been approved by the Premier League since a government-commissioned report by the former sports minister, Tracey Crouch, called for more rigorous scrutiny of club takeovers.

Her inquiry was initiated after the furious reaction to six English clubs’ decision to join a European Super League early last year.

It acquired additional impetus after the Premier League approved the takeover of Newcastle by a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

The Magpies’ acquisition by one of the world’s wealthiest investors infuriated a number of Premier League clubs, triggering the resignation of the league’s chairman, Gary Hoffman.

Southampton did not respond to repeated attempts to contact it on Monday night and Tuesday morning.

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