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 CEE
UG’s Šolak buys into Premier League’s Southampton
 05 Jan 2022
Financial investments in English football clubs seems to be the latest trend among the big CEE media moguls. After Acun Ilicali recently bought Hull City, yesterday the Premier League’s Southampton confirmed that Dragan Šolak, founder and chairman of the board of United Group, is the new majority owner of the club.

Šolak is the leading investor of Sport Republic, which has bought Gao Jisheng’s 80% stake in Southampton and also involves the former Brentford executive Rasmus Ankersen, who co-founded the company, The Guardian reports.

Gao bought his Southampton stake for about £200 million in August 2017. The Chinese businessman has been keen to sell for the past 18 months, only for interested parties to withdraw. His investment in the club has been extremely limited but Ralph Hasenhüttl has repeatedly steered the team away from relegation.

The former majority owner Katharina Liebherr retains her 20% stake and the chief executive, Martin Semmens, is to remain in post. Liebherr, her advisers, Semmens and the managing director, Toby Steele, have overseen the takeover process. Southampton, who visit Swansea in the FA Cup third round on Saturday, are 14th in the Premier League.

“Today we have found the perfect solution for our club,” Semmens said. “Sport Republic are experienced investors, but also experienced within the world of elite professional sports. That combination is very hard to find, and we are thrilled to have reached an agreement that secures our short- and long-term future.”

The Sport Republic co-founder and chairman Henrik Kraft said: “Our ambition is to build a portfolio of high-influence stakes in football clubs and other sporting assets across the world. At the same time, we will also invest in early-stage sports technology companies and use our portfolio to accelerate the development of these companies. The acquisition of Southampton is a great first step.”
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