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Napoli rumored to be exploring sale – sources

Italian football club Napoli is rumoured to be exploring a sale, having attracted interest from a string of international investment funds, a source close to and two sources familiar with the situation said.

Napoli has seen mounting interest from financial suitors in recent months, the sources familiar said. This wave of interest could potentially push the club’s owner Aurelio De Laurentiis to seriously consider offers next year without undertaking a formal auction process, all three sources said.

Management has already received some unsolicited offers, the source close said, without naming any suitors. This week, De Laurentiis is in the US to meet with some interested investors, this source added without elaborating.

Although the club aims to build a new stadium, management could consider serious offers from international private equity houses that do not include financing construction, this source said. External financing would help it spur its brand development, including, for example, launching new merchandising and supporting more extensive distribution, clinching new sponsorships, and supporting its project to set up merchandise retail stores in key cities, the source added.

In March, La Gazzetta Dello Sport published an unsourced report suggesting that Sixth Street could be among the private equity firms about to table offers for Napoli, and that Sixth Street’s bid could include constructing a new stadium.

This would be a good time for a sale of the club as, according to Italian gambling operator Sisal, it has been pegged a favourite to win next year's Italian championship.

Looking at its performance in this year’s Italian championship, Napoli is in an ideal situation to be sold, one of the sources familiar said. If it wins, the club will see revenues ramp up, alongside sponsorships requests and TV rights, this source said, which would boost its valuation.

None of the sources suggested a potential valuation for the club, but La Gazzetta reported in March that De Laurentiis values the club at EUR 700m, although he had not decided yet whether he would sell.

Napoli did not return requests for comment.

The Italian football sector is undergoing a “wild” season of M&A, the source close said, noting that the Italian football industry is undergoing consolidation in an effort to rapidly diversify its activities and be profitable.

Recent deals include private equity RedBird Capital Partners’ September acquisition of Associazione Calcio Milan (AC Milan) for EUR 1.2bn, in which Yankee Global Enterprises, the owner of the New York Yankees, also acquired a minority stake in the club. In February, Atalanta B.C. came under the control of a consortium of US investors for an undisclosed sum, as reported.

Last February, New York-based private investors, the Platek family, acquired Spezia Calcio for an undisclosed sum. In August 2020, AS Roma was acquired by The Friedkin Group for EUR 591m, and in June 2019, Fiorentina was sold to Italian-US entrepreneur Rocco Commisso for undisclosed terms.