US group signs deal to buy Roma
A group of American investors led by Boston executive Thomas DiBenedetto announced Friday they have signed a deal to buy three-time Italian champion Roma.
Under the terms of the deal, DiBenedetto's group will pay around $100 million for a 60 percent share of a new company that would own roughly two-thirds of the Serie A club.
The deal, which still needs to be approved by regulators, would make the four-man American group the first foreign majority owners of a Serie A club.
In addition, Unicredit, which last year became co-owner of Roma following a debt-for-equity swap with the Sensi family, would retain 40 percent of the new Roma ownership company.
DiBenedetto, 61, is also one of approximately 13 limited partners in the Boston Red Sox ownership group. The other members of the group planning to buy Roma are Boston Celtics minority owner James Pallotta, Michael Ruane and Richard D'Amore.
''I'd like to take Fenway Park to Rome,'' DiBenedetto said Friday in front of a throng of Italian journalists. ''(And) the Colosseum would be very nice in Boston.''
DiBenedetto vowed to put together a competitive team and recruit players in the Rome area.
Roma has had a tumultuous season, with Vincenzo Montella replacing Claudio Ranieri as coach in February. The team is sixth in Serie A, 15 points behind leader AC Milan.
The team was eliminated from this season's Champions League by Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk last month and could face more problems if the team doesn't qualify for next season's Champions League by finishing at least fourth.
City rival Lazio is currently fourth, four points in front of Roma with six matches remaining.
Roma has some of the biggest debt among Italian clubs, with the Gazzetta dello Sport estimating its deficit this year at $56 million.
Roma last won the Serie A in 2001.
Still, the club has some of the most dedicated fans in Italy and DiBenedetto previously said he plans to build a new stadium.
DiBenedetto said the passion of the fans is one of the factors that attracted him to the business proposition. But he also admitted that his Italian-American heritage also played a role.
''Being an Italian American, and growing up with a father who he was a stanch supporter of anything Italian ... clearly had a lot to do with it,'' he said. ''I'm very proud of my heritage.''
When asked what he thought about Italian Prime Minister and AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi welcoming DiBenedetto and his partners to Italian soccer, DiBenedetto smiled and said he was thankful.
''Our objective is to be just as successful in Rome,'' DiBenedetto said, ''as Mr. Berlusconi was with AC Milan.''