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Thai financier Bee Taechaubol to be granted exclusive rights to negotiate AC Milan acquisition

by Carlo Festa

Just when only few in the financial world still believed in an offer from Thai financier Bee Taechaubol for AC Milan, the rumored bid eventually materialized yesterday. The chief executive of Thai Prime, nicknamed Mr Bee by Italian media, has made available little less than €500 million for the top-flight soccer club.

And the AC Milan owner, former Prime Minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, seems to be willing to grant him exclusive rights to negotiate the acquisition of the Serie A club.

Bee has put together a diversified group of investors, mostly Chinese, but also Arab. The broker, assisted by law firm Gianni Origoni Grippo, has assured he has the money to take control of the club. There is speculation of an initial bid of around €500 million, in addition to a guarantee for a loan from a pool of banks to put on the table as much as €750 million in several tranches.

The total valuation is close to €1 billion, including the refinancing of debt with banks and other parties for €250 million.

Over the weekend, with his arrival in Milan, Bee should be able to secure exclusive talks with the club, something he had been only promised so far. Berlusconi has given the green light to the Thai broker, the only investor to have so far made an offer close to the valuation of €1 billion sought by the media magnate. The rapid sequence of events has created excitement at Fininvest, the Berlusconi family's holding that has the financial control of the club.

Until recently, Fininvest didn't seem to believe in Bee. In the past days, a manager from Hong Kong, Richard Lee, at the helm of a group of Chinese investors, also made a management presentation.

As usual in such transactions, exclusive negotiations do not necessarily lead to a successful deal. Fininvest itself does not face any penalty if it changes its mind.

Other potential suitors are waiting on the sidelines: in addition to the group led by Richard Lee, there is another Chinese group considered as financially reliable. After all, China is an important region for AC Milan considered the number of fans the club already has in Asia. And a large part of the investors in the group led by Taechaubol are from China.