Chinese retail giant Suning has bought a majority stake in Inter Milan, marking the latest entry into the European football market by cash-rich Chinese firms.
The announcement was made by company chairman Zhang Jindong at a glitzy news conference Monday in the eastern city of Nanjing, where Suning is based.
Suning already owns the Jiangsu Suning club in the Chinese Super League and hopes to leverage Italy’s football expertise to boost the level of the domestic game.
The deal leaves International Sports Capital as the sole minority shareholder at Inter Milan with Erick Thohir retaining his position as president.
“Suning Holdings Group will continue to support the global business strategy of Erick Thohir and his senior management team in order to make Inter Milan even stronger and more competitive, both on and off the pitch, by investing in the core business and expanding the brand’s geographic reach, notably in China and Asia,” the club said in a news release.
Internazionale Holding will give up its share and former president Massimo Moratti will leave the club.
Details of the sale were not provided, although Chinese news reports said Suning was buying about 70% of the club’s equity.
Former Inter Milan captain Javier Zanetti was among those attending the news conference.
Apart from Suning, Chinese shopping mall and real estate conglomerate Wanda last year bought Swiss sports marketing company Infront Sports & Media, which produces World Cup broadcasts for Fifa, and took a 20% stake in Spanish football team Atletico Madrid.
Reports have also circulated about Chinese interest in Inter’s cross-town rival, AC Milan. Chinese firms have also poured money into the domestic league, making it the world’s priciest transfer market this year.