MILAN (Reuters) – Inter Milan president Steven Zhang said on Friday that Chinese top investor Suning has committed long-term to the side and played down suggestions that the Serie A club could be sold.
“The commitment for us is long term. The future is crystal clear since we have taken over the club”, Steven Zhang said at a press briefing after Inter Milan’s annual shareholder meeting.
Chinese retailer Suning took control of the club in 2016 in what was billed as one of the highest profile takeovers of a European football team by a Chinese firm.
Under its ownership, Inter captured their first Serie A title in 11 years in 2021. Having also qualified for the lucrative Champions League, the club’s finances were hardly hit by the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Suning was hardly hit by the virus downturn and embarked on a restructuring plan entailing a state-backed fund becoming a major shareholder.
The Chinese firm also secured a 275-million-euro ($273.71 million) financing backstop by Oaktree Capital Management to shore up Inter Milan finances.
Zhang made his comments after several media reported that the owners were exploring options to sell the team.
Three sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters Goldman Sachs and U.S. boutique bank Raine, which managed Chelsea’s sale earlier this year, are working to tap potential suitors for the loss-making Serie A side.
At least two U.S. investors expressed interest in buying out the club recently, two of the people said, without providing further details.
Inter Milan’s owner is seeking a valuation of at least 1.2 billion euros, the people added.
However, Zhang, who is the son of Zhang Jindong, founder of Suning, played down any move to sell Inter Milan.
“We are not talking to any investors”, he said. “We did not sign any contract with any of them”, he added, referring to the advisers.
Inter Milan booked a 140-million-euro annual loss in the 12 months ending June, down from a record high of 246 million euros the year before.
($1 = 1.0047 euros)
(Reporting Elisa Anzolin, Elvira Pollina, editing by Pritha Sarkar)