While the sale of Serie A club AS Roma from one American billionaire to another appeared imminent at the end of December, it seems both parties have taken additional time to conduct their due diligence before completing the transaction. Sources within the organization have confirmed current owner James Pallotta is on the verge of selling his majority stake in the capital city club to the Friedkin Group, headed by Texas-based tycoon Dan Friedkin, for an estimated total of $872M. One source recently suggested the closing may occur on or about the date of the Derby della Capitale between Roma and Lazio on January 26.
Friedkin’s purchase of the giallorossi makes sense on a number of levels. First of all, Friedkin’s net worth ($4.3B) is considerably more than Pallotta’s $1B estimation.
Secondly, while Boston-based Pallotta, chairman of the hedge fund Raptor Capital Management, is primarily an investor, Friedkin is a multiple asset entrepreneur, with interests across a variety of industries thatmake him a far more intriguing Serie A owner.
Friedkin inherited the Gulf States Toyota dealership consortium from his father but has expanded his holdings beyond the automotive sector. The Friedkin Group also owns and operates leisure properties such as resorts, hotels and golf courses in the United States, Mexico, Central America, Europe and the South Pacific. In addition, Friedkin operates Legendary Expeditions, an African safari excursion service.
But more significantly, Friedkin also owns Imperative Entertainment, a California-based production studio that develops film, TV and documentary projects.
Friedkin’s interests in development properties could accelerate the long-delayed “Stadio della Roma” stadium project that has been the source of much grief for Pallotta. If Friedkin assumes the reins of the project, as is expected to be the case, his knowhow and experience in the sector should finally pave the way for a new,state of the art stadium that will, in all likelihood include, a privately financed hotel and entertainment complex within the infrastructure plans.
Moreover, Friedkin’s entertainment holdings could be a source of more focused and strategic content for the club, as it continues to build and expand its global reach.
Over and above the stadium stalemate, Pallotta also presided over the recent departures of club icons Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi, both immensely unpopular moves for Roma’s vocal and critical fan base. In combination, these factors have created an untenable situation for the American investor, which may have prompted the sale.
The Friedkin Group represents the latest in what appears to be a new wave of ownership consortiums taking over Serie A clubs. While Rocco Commisso and Joey Saputo may be the new faces in the president’s chairs at Fiorentina and Bologna, respectively, there is every indication they are and will be availing themselves of the wealth of their respective North American conglomerates, Mediacom and the Saputo Group, in the restructuring of their new clubs.
AS Roma’s acquisition by the Friedkin Group may be a harbinger of better days ahead for the Italian club as it strives to be a competitive contender on the domestic, European and international fronts.