U.S. Investors Who Bought Italian Club AS Roma Facing Fans "In Revolt"
Serie A club AS Roma President Jim Pallotta "enjoyed a warm reception from Italians" after he bought the club in '11, but the "honeymoon was short-lived," according to Beth Healy of the BOSTON GLOBE. After a recent string of losses, disgruntled fans are "in revolt." Pallotta "promised to make AS Roma a contender in the elite Champions League, and the fans loved it." But after the recent run of defeats, they lately have been "chanting and waving signs that say, 'Yankee go home!' and 'Free AS Roma.'" In addition to Pallotta, the other investors are Red Sox investor Thomas DiBenedetto, North Bridge Ventures Partner Richard D'Amore and real estate investor Michael Ruane. DiBenedetto was president of Roma until last summer, when the group "raised a new round of money and Pallotta, the largest investor, raised his hand to take over." The owners "aim to build Roma into a global brand, along the lines" of EPL club Manchester United. They are "applying American sports business strategy, signing new players, and expanding media and marketing efforts in deals with Disney, Volkswagen, and others." Pallotta said, "At the end of the day, you’re branding Rome, right? And how many cities in the world are as aspirational as Rome?" Pallotta wants to turn the team, valued at $354M, "into a $1 billion franchise." Central to the plan is "building a new 60,000-seat arena by 2016 to replace the old Stadio Olimpico." Pallotta also "envisions" a HOF museum for Roma. DiBenedetto said that he has "confidence Pallotta is making the right moves." DiBenedetto added, "Hopefully Rome will have the patience to allow the football people to make that happen" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/17).