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UniCredit wins AS Roma in debt deal

July 4, 2010

By Guy Dinmore in Rome, July 4 2010

Unicredit is looking for a new owner to acquire AS Roma, one of Italy’s top Serie A football clubs, following an agreement reached on Thursday night with Rosella Sensi to settle debts owed to the bank by Italpetroli, her near-bankrupt family holding company.

Uncredit, Europe’s third largest bank by market value, is expected to appoint Rothschild as advisor to look for a buyer for the capital’s biggest club.

In the meantime, Ms Sensi will remain part of the management to ensure continuity for the club in the crucial build-up to the new season.

Italpetroli’s other assets, mostly related to oil storage and handling, will also pass to Unicredit except for property valued at 30m euros which will remain with Ms Sensi, Unicredit said. The bank previously owned 49 per cent of Italpetroli.

Rosella Sensi, whose family has held a majority stake in Roma since 1993 amounting until last night to 67 per cent, was struggling to repay Italpetroli’s debts, with some 320m euros owed to Unicredit and 80m to Monte dei Paschi di Siena.

In a statement Ms Sensi said the deal was made in the interests of protecting As Roma “which belongs to the city and we all hold dear”.

The fate of Roma — founded in 1927 and one of Italy’s most successful clubs winning three Serie A titles and 11 Italian cups — has been up in the air since the death of Ms Sensi’s father, Franco, two years ago. Ms Sensi was widely reported to have turned down an offer then from George Soros, although a source close to the US financier and political activist denied this to the Financial Times.

Unicredit – whose chief executive Alessandro Profumo is a keen fan of Milan’s Inter – wants to find a new buyer as soon as possible.

Before the global financial crisis erupted two years ago, analysts say Roma could have been expected to fetch possibly double its current market value of some 110m euros. Listed on the Milan stock exchange, its share price closed last week 22 per cent above its level a month ago but still down a similar amount over the year.

Under Francesco Totti, its charismatic but ageing captain, and new trainer, Claudio Ranieri, Roma bounced back from a disastrous start to the 2009-10 season to finish second behind Inter.

Roma ranked 12th this year in the world’s top earning clubs in the Deloitte Football Money League 2010, the accounting firm’s annual review, with revenues of 146m euros.

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