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China’s Suning Group Takes Controlling Stake in Italy’s Inter Milan Soccer Club

ROME — Chinese electronics retailer Suning Commerce Group has taken a majority stake in top league Italian soccer club Inter Milan, marking the latest major sports deal recently closed in Italy by a big Chinese company with interests in the digital and entertainment fields.

Suning is a major investor in China’s PPTV video-streaming service which signed a multi-year licensing deal for exclusive Chinese streaming rights to CBS and Showtime series last year.

They agreed to pay a reported $370 million for a 70 percent stake of Inter with the stated goal of forging “an ample partnership in the field of soccer and the development of soccer in China.”

The deal is the latest indication that Chinese conglomerates are now targeting sports, having muscled their way into global film and TV content. And Italy has recently emerged as a favorite shopping ground.

In late May Chinese investors Everbright and Baofeng  took a majority stake in Italy-based sports rights group MP & Silva in a deal estimated to be worth more than $ 1 billion. They established a ‘strategic partnership’ with the company. MP & Silva handles a host of soccer rights globally and also other major sports events including the Tennis French Open and NFL rights in Europe.

Everbright, which is listed in Hong Kong, is a large and diversified financial conglomerate. Baofeng, listed in mainland China, is one of the fastest moving companies in Asia, specializing in digital entertainment and virtual reality. It claims to be “China’s biggest online video-playing platform.”

Also last month Italian media mogul and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi gave the go-ahead for his Fininvest holding company to enter exclusive talks with a group of Chinese investors to sell off his beloved AC Milan, one of the planet’s most prominent soccer clubs and a longstanding symbol of his success.

U.S.-based Galatioto Sports Partners is brokering the negotiations with a consortium believed to include China’s Evergrande Group, whose core business is real estate, and, indirectly, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, headed by Jack Ma, according to sources. Alibaba have a movie unit called Alibaba Pictures Group.

Chinese president Xi Jinping has been pushing to turn China into a soccer powerhouse, announcing plans this year to boost the sport, building more fields, and possibly making it mandatory in schools.

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