The US billionaire Krause family is nearing an agreement to acquire a majority stake in Italian football club Parma, in a move that would make it the latest American investor in Serie A. 

A deal valuing the club at more than €100m could be reached by the end of the week, according to people briefed on the matter.

The Krause family would control up to 60 per cent of the group after eclipsing a bid by a Qatari investor, the people said.

Existing investors, including Italian billionaire Guido Barilla of the eponymous pasta brand, would retain a stake for at least five years, according to one of the people. 

The Krause family’s attempt to buy Parma follows last month’s €591m acquisition of AS Roma by Texan billionaire Dan Friedkin and last year’s purchase of ACF Fiorentina for an undisclosed sum by New York media mogul Rocco Commisso. 

Clubs in Serie A, Italy’s top football league, have drawn investments from across the globe in recent years.

Chinese retail and media conglomerate Suning Holdings paid €270m for a majority stake in Inter Milan in 2016. 

AC Milan was acquired by Chinese businessman Yonghong Li for €740m in 2017 but he lost control to Elliott Management in 2018 after defaulting on more than €300m in high-interest loans from the US hedge fund.

Parma was once among Italy’s top clubs, which under the ownership of dairy company Parmalat in the 1990s won three major European titles having spent heavily on star players including Argentina’s Hernán Crespo, Bulgaria’s Hristo Stoichkov and France’s Lilian Thuram.

After Parmalat collapsed in 2003 following a huge financial fraud, the club was reformed under new management to preserve its Serie A status. But in 2015 Parma fell into insolvency under the weight of debts and a new corruption scandal, leading to its relegation to the fourth division of Italian football.

Over recent seasons, Parma achieved three successive promotions and returned to Serie A in 2018.

The Krause Group, which reported $2.8bn in revenues in 2019, already owns lower-tier US football club the Des Moines Menace.

The family built its fortune on the Kum & Go convenience store chain in the US Midwest, which boasts 400 petrol and snack stations in 11 states, as well as their local petrol transport service Solar Transport. In recent years it has expanded its holdings to include two wineries in the Italian region of Piedmont. 

The Krause Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The proposed takeover of Parma comes as a number of private equity groups have submitted bids to acquire a minority stake in Serie A, seeking a rare opportunity to invest in one of Europe’s biggest leagues. 

CVC Capital Partners has teamed up with Advent International and Italian investment fund Fondo FSI, offering €1.3bn to acquire 10 per cent in a new company that would manage Serie A’s broadcasting rights, its international trademark and commercial development. They face a rival bid from Bain Capital, which has offered a slightly higher sum, according to people familiar with the bids. 

It remains unclear whether enough clubs support a proposal to bring in outside investors, rather than launching the new media company through other means such as a debt deal that would allow them to maintain control of commercial affairs.

Italian football’s finances are under pressure because of the coronavirus pandemic, which is preventing fans from entering stadiums and prompting broadcasters to seek rebates to compensate for the lack of action during this year’s lockdown.

Source: Financial Times

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