Yonghong Li, the Chinese owner of Italian soccer giants AC Milan, has missed a deadline to repay United States-based hedge fund Elliott Management.
Li owes the American company €32 million (US$37 million) of interest on the debt to the New York firm, which assisted in Li’s purchase of the club, contributing €335 million (US$395 million) of the €740 million (US$872 million) used by the Chinese businessman to buy the Milan club.
Based on the conditions of the loan, the failure to repay the debt means that Elliott Management, founded by Paul Singer, could take control of the club. This would, in turn, open up the possibility of the club being sold to American investors, with recent interest having come from potential US buyers.
In recent times, Li has rejected approaches from the family of Thomas Ricketts, who owns Major League Baseball (MLB) team the Chicago Cubs, while there has also been interest from Rocco Commisso, who owns soccer team the New York Cosmos, who play in the North American Soccer League (NASL).
Daily newspaper The Financial Times reported that these enquiries had been rebuffed because Li was already in talks with possible investors from Asia and Russia.
Milan, who qualified for the Europa League last season by finishing sixth in Serie A last season, have been banned from taking part in the UEFA competition. The club received a one-year suspension from the Europa League and Champions League because of a breach of the Financial Fair Play (FFP) laws that require teams to break even. However, Li’s takeover last year was followed by a €200m million (US$235 million) splurge on new players in the summer transfer window of 2017.
Milan have, however, appealed their suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).