Potential AC Milan investor Bee Taechaubol has pleaded with president Silvio Berlusconi not to sell a controlling stake in the club to Chinese financial brokers.
A consortium from China is currently in exclusive negotiations with Berlusconi and Fininvest, the Rossoneri’s parent company, with a view to buying 80 per cent of the club immediately and the remaining 20% at a later time.
Mr Bee had appeared set to make a significant investment in the club himself since early 2015, only for talks to hit a number of stumbling blocks.
But, in an exclusive interview with Goal, Mr Bee insists that he remains ready to buy a 48% stake which would allow Berlusconi to keep his controlling interest, and that his own proposal will protect the long-term vision of the once-great Milan.
"The people who are in talks are financial brokers, and the fund manager will become CEO of Milan. With a whole bunch of money from 10 companies in China, that’s just looking at extracting money and making a profit for investors," Mr Bee explained. "I’d rather see it sold to another Italian than to somebody from overseas.
"There is no point deciding to invest then buying more and more and more players, because that is not sustainable. AC Milan can make money on its own and it can be sustainable.
"The club belongs to President Berlusconi, he dedicated his life to it and made it what it is. He knows what to do and how to do it, and now he will have time to focus on it he can make it a champion again. I’m just here to help and add to it, and I know how to do that because I have successful businesses in the industry already."
Mr Bee’s over-riding belief is that a club as important to the football world as Milan should never sell a controlling interest to non-Italians.
"In the beginning I did want a majority because I was being backed by some middle-eastern families and that was what they wanted," he continues. "However, I came to understand Italian football a lot more and, being Asian, I can’t say I really know the slightest bit about it, but the more time I spend there and the more I’m involved I see that AC Milan is the icon of Italian football and one of the greatest names in world football.
"I explained to the funds that I think it would be arrogant for anyone who is not Italian – especially Asians – to think that we should have the right to own AC Milan. Fans might say 'Oh great, somebody’s coming to invest', but when you spend money and the club does well, they look up and think 'Why are there a bunch of Asians sitting up there'. This is an Italian icon, this is an Italian team. I think it would ruin the brand of AC Milan if there’s not an Italian owner.
"We should only be financial investors, and help build the commercial side, but let President Berlusconi still own AC Milan. It’s not my show, and I never intended it to be my show. It became a big media thing, which is not what I want."
There were claims in some areas of the media that the delays in Mr Bee’s bid to buy into the club had been due to a lack of funds, but he refutes such suggestions.
"Money is not an issue, there was just a lot of confusion. My first proposal was for a majority but once I understood where [Berlusconi’s] heart is and I had learned more about Italy and football, I realised I should never have believed I had a right to a majority. You can’t walk into Italy as an outsider and think you have a right to buy their icon.
"I’m not pretending I know as much about football as Berlusconi. He has done what he has done and has achieved a lot so he knows what he is doing. But I know what I’m doing in other areas, in the commercial side, and I have the connections and the know-how which can help."
He adds that a tie-up with the Chinese government relating to a Physical Education contract in the country’s schools could provide valuable resource for Milan’s empire.
"I was able to do this by leveraging my other football business, Sport Events International (SEI), and on top of that it’s all revenue sharing.
READ MORE | Kante offered to Juventus for £20m
"The Chinese government has made it mandatory for every child in their schools to play football, and to have at least one hour of PE lessons per day starting in August. So I’m sending people into the schools to teach the kids, we signed with the Ministry of Education and we work with the Ministry of Sports covering 400,000 schools.
"I’m starting 1,000 schools in Beijing in August, that’s 2.5 million kids, and the contract I have is for the entirety of China over eight years. Working with the Ministry of Sports, we will hand pick kids and send them to Europe for training.
"SEI’s Football Fives is the biggest amateur competition in the world, across 42 countries with 1.3m registered competitors playing five-a-side football.
"I am serious about football, but I have a lot of different things I can leverage off to help Milan. Potential partners want to access my network in the academies and amateur competition because the reach is very wide.
"I accept that it is up to the president, and that they have an exclusivity right now with this other group, but I am here and ready. We have a long-term vision which can build the club from within. Milan can win because it already has that in its blood. Milan can be the best again."