- CCTV reported Baidu founder Li agreed $473 million deal
- AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi says deal with Chinese close
Chinese Internet company Baidu Inc. denied reports that the firm, or its billionaire Chairman Li Yanhong, are involved in a deal to buy iconic Italian soccer team AC Milan. China state broadcaster CCTV said that Li was part of a group close to acquiring the team for $437 million.
Milan, the seven-time European champion, is close to being sold to a Chinese group, according to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose family investment vehicle controls the team.
A Chinese consortium have since April been in exclusive talks about taking over Milan, which suffered from a lack of investment and success in recent years. That group doesn’t include Baidu or its CEO, who’s also known as Robin Li, said the company’s spokeswoman Whitney Yan. Li is the world’s 84th richest person with a fortune of $11.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Fans of AC Milan expressed their disappointment and concern at news of the denial on social media.
"Anyone besides me worried that Baidu’s official denial of involvement in the Milan purchase is the precursor to the sale collapsing?" said Twitter user Milan Obsession.
If a sale of Milan goes through, the city’s two top teams would both be owned by Chinese investors. In June, a unit of Suning Holdings Group Co. bought about 70 percent of Inter Milan for $306 million.
The moves come amid China President Xi Jinping’s push to turn China into a major soccer power.