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Volume 6 No. 212


The family of former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi "is considering selling a stake of between 20 and 30 percent" in Serie A side AC Milan, the club he bought in '86, according to REUTERS. AC Milan co-CEO Barbara Berlusconi, Silvio's daughter, said that the family "was seeking partners and she would travel to the Middle East and later to the United States as part of the process." Rumors "have been circulating" that the Berlusconis "were seeking new investment in a team that is struggling in mid-table in Serie A." Italian football "has not seen the kind of heavy foreign investment that clubs in England and France have enjoyed." There are signs "that could be changing" (REUTERS, 4/2).

The "protracted takeover" of League Championship side Leeds United "took an unexpected turn on Wednesday night" when Mike Farnan's consortium, Together Leeds, confirmed that "it is in discussions with the Italian businessman Massimo Cellino" over purchasing the club together, according to the London GUARDIAN. The Football League is deliberating over Cellino's appeal against the decision to bar his holding company from completing the £25M ($42M) takeover after Cellino was found guilty of tax evasion in Italy. However, the addition of the Together Leeds group -- fronted by the Manchester-based Farnan and including Welcome to Yorkshire CEO Gary Verity, former Hull City Chair Adam Pearson and Red Strike Marketing exec Frank Devoy -- "is a surprising development in a saga that stretches back to the first week of February'' (GUARDIAN, 4/2). SKY SPORTS reported Cellino believes that Leeds is "suffering as a result of the Football League's handling of his prospective takeover of the club." Cellino: "The message I have to the Football League is that they should look after the clubs they represents in the proper way. I don't think they are acting in the interests of the clubs. They are hurting Leeds, not Massimo Cellino, very deeply" (SKY SPORTS, 4/2).

For Reebok, CrossFit "could provide much-needed salvation," according to Chris Bryant of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The sportswear brand, owned by adidas since '06, makes CrossFit-badged clothing "as part of a broader alliance with the fashionable fitness movement." The partnership, struck as Reebok struggled to justify the $3.8B adidas had paid for it, "amounts to something of a tightrope act." Reebok "has had to avoid alienating fitness fans drawn to CrossFit’s edgy, spartan image, while co-existing with a network of entrepreneurs who have driven CrossFit’s rapid expansion." It seems "to be working so far." Reebok VP of Fitness and Training Chris Froio: “We’ve seen this brand turn the corner.” Reebok "certainly needed a lift." Footwear sales "have lagged behind those of Nike." There have been "financial irregularities in Reebok’s India business." It had to take a €265M writedown a year ago. Amid these disappointments, Reebok "decided to reposition itself as a 'fitness' brand, rather than associating itself with conventional professional sport." In '10 Reebok agreed to a 10-year partnership with CrossFit worth an unspecified sum. It "includes sponsorship of the CrossFit Games." The brand also "has to make sure that it does not spoil CrossFit’s underground vibe." Greg Glassman, who developed the fitness concept in '95 in California, "has rejected overtures from private equity to take over the sport" (FT, 4/2).