[MILAN] A deal to sell Italian soccer club AC Milan to a consortium of Chinese investors is likely to be signed later on Friday, three sources close to the matter said, ending former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's three decades of ownership.
"Today will be an important day for the possible sale of the club," one of the sources said.
A second source said a meeting was scheduled Friday to sign an agreement for the long-awaited deal. "Today could be the day," the source said.
The deal is expected to be completed by the end of the year, a third source said, with the Chinese investors expected to take a 99.93 per cent stake in the former European champions.
Exclusive talks between the Chinese consortium and Berlusconi, who owns the club through family holding company Fininvest, started in May.
Talks slowed in recent weeks because of Chinese bureaucratic and regulatory hurdles as well as Berlusconi's heart surgery in June, a source previously said.
The source added at the time that the group of investors was headed by private investment firm GSR Capital and comprised 5 or 6 other people, without giving their names.
Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore said on its website on Friday that AC Milan would be bought by a vehicle called Sino-Europe Investment Management Changxing for 740 million euros (S$1.1 billion), including about 220 million euros of debt.
The paper said the vehicle was part owned by Chinese state-owned development fund Haixia Capital and businessman Li Yonghong who has been carrying out the talks with the Italian club.
Sources previously told Reuters the consortium's offer for AC Milan valued the club at between 700 million and 750 million euros, including debt.
Chinese electronics retailer Suning Commerce Group Co Ltd agreed in June to buy nearly 70 per cent of city rivals Inter Milan for 270 million euros in the highest profile takeover of a European team by a Chinese firm.
This is not the first time Berlusconi has tried to sell his beloved soccer club.
Last year, talks with Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol to sell a majority stake foundered when Berlusconi changed his mind at the last minute.
AC Milan, which shares its stadium with local rival Inter, posted a loss of 93.5 million euros last year and is in need of fresh capital to compete with other top European clubs.
In July Berlusconi said he had accepted the valuation proposed by the Chinese consortium adding he had "demanded they commit to invest 400 million euros over two years."