Red Sox Investor Aims to Lead AS Roma Buyout

March 4, 2011

A group of U.S. money managers, led by Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Boston Red Sox partner Thomas DiBenedetto are hoping to buy Italian Seria A soccer side A.S. Roma, becoming the only foreign owner in Italy’s top soccer league as clubs struggle to fill stadiums and increase sales.

DiBenedetto is leading the group that includes hedge fund manager James Pallotta and as many as four other investors, according to two people briefed on the discussions. They are in exclusive talks to purchase the three-time Italian champion from the Sensi family and UniCredit SpA, the country’s biggest lender, by a March 17 deadline.

According to former Vicenza owner and founder of private equity company Stellican Ltd., Stephen Julius, unlike the U.K., foreign investors have shunned Italian soccer because its “business model is decades behind” the English Premier League.

Julius stated: “In English football, they have squeezed the lemon and developed the sport commercially, but that hasn’t happened in Italy.”

Roma was put up for sale in July because the Sensi family accumulated debt of more than US$416m with Milan-based UniCredit. The bank agreed to swap the debt for equity and jointly owns a 67 per cent stake in the team with the Sensis’ oil company Italpetroli SpA.