Juventus Football Club SpA says it’s unclear what will happen to the 7.5 percent stake in the soccer team held by Libya’s state-owned investment company amid continuing political unrest in the north African nation.
Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company SA, or Lafico, is the second-largest shareholder in the record 27-time Italian champion, with a holding worth 12.8 million euros ($17.5 million) at the current share price. The stake has been reported in regulatory filings.
Company official Khaled Zentuti is a member of Juventus’s board, which next meets Feb. 28 to discuss half-year earnings, although the team doesn’t know if he’ll attend.
“I suppose Lafico has many other problems regarding internal governance,” Marco Re, a spokesman on the club’s corporate affairs, said in a telephone interview today. “I have no idea what they’re going to do with regards Juventus.”
A receptionist at Lafico’s office in Rome said there was no one available. Calls to the company’s offices in Libyan capital Tripoli went unanswered.
Qaddafi, 68, yesterday denied reports he’d fled Libya as diplomats resigned and soldiers deserted in protest over a crackdown on anti-government demonstrators. Clashes between protesters and security forces have left more than 200 people dead in the past week, according to Human Rights Watch. Qaddafi has led Libya for 41 years.
“They’ve always supported the company, for example they participated fully with the recent capital increase in 2007,” Re said of Lafico, adding that Italian companies haven’t had a problem dealing with Qaddafi’s regime. “We are an investment for them.”
Lafico has owned a stake in Juventus since the club floated in 2001. Re said it was partly for financial reasons and also because one of the Libyan leader’s sons, Al-Saadi Qaddafi, is a fan of the Turin-based team.
“He’s followed Juventus very much,” Re said. “He was interested in the company from an economic point of view but also as a fan he wanted to know the results.”
The 37-year-old younger Qaddafi once played professional soccer. He represented teams in Libya before joining Italy’s Perugia in 2003. In two years there he made just one appearance before joining Udinese where he also featured once. He joined Sampdoria for the 2006-07 season, without playing a match. He also scored two goals in 18 matches for the Libyan national team.
Shares in Juventus, which says it’s Italy’s most popular team among domestic fans, fell 2.3 percent to close at 84.8 euro cents today for a market value of 170.9 million euros. Juventus, sixth in Serie A, hasn’t won the league since being stripped of the 2005 and 2006 titles after a corruption scandal. It won the European Cup, the continent’s top club competition, in 1985 and 1996.
The main shareholder in the club, with a 60 percent stake, is the Agnelli family, which controls carmaker Fiat SpA.