DiBenedetto, Private Equity Honcho, Buys Italian Soccer Team

Mar 30 2011 | 9:27am ET

American private equity chief Thomas DiBenedetto has struck a deal to buy Italian soccer team AS Roma.

DiBenedetto, president of p.e. firm Junction Investors and money manager Boston International Group, and his partners will own 60% of the club. Italian bank UniCredit will own the rest. Among DiBenedetto's partners is James Pallotta, the former Tudor Investment Corp. star manager and founder of hedge fund Raptor Capital Management.

Current owners Compagnia Italpetroli, controlled by the Sensi family, announced today that "negotiations in Rome over the past few days have reached a basic agreement to buy up control of AS Roma S.p.a."

"Over the next few days we will proceed to write out the definitive versions of the agreements reached today, which also include commitments for the reinforcement and future development of AS Roma," the statement continues. "The signature of this agreement is expected within the next 20 days, allowing DiBenedetto AS Roma LLC to present financial guarantees."

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although DiBenedetto's group is believed to have offered about €130 million for the money-losing club.

In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport this week, DiBenedetto said he would make Roma "one of the best clubs in the world" by building an "English-style" stadium for the team. Unlike British soccer teams, no Italian Serie A team owns its own stadium.

Certainly, DiBenedetto knows something about "English-style" soccer: He is a minority partner of Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Boston Red Sox baseball team and last year bought English soccer team Liverpool Football Club. It is unclear whether DiBenedetto's ownership stake in Liverpool's owners will present a problem for Europe's soccer governing body, UEFA, which bars anyone from having "control or influence over more than one club participating in a UEFA club competition."

Both Roma and Liverpool consistently qualify to play in UEFA competitions.

Pallotta, too, is no stranger to the sports world: He owns a minority stake in basketball's Boston Celtics.

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