Southampton has revealed that Sport Republic, an investment business run by Serbian TV tycoon Dragan Solak, has agreed to buy the club. Gao Jisheng’s four-year stint on the south coast has come to an end, and Solak and his group have purchased a controlling 80 percent ownership in the Premier League team from him.
Henrik Kraft and Rasmus Ankersen created the London-based investment firm Sport Republic, with the latter only stepping down as Brentford’s director of football at the end of 2021. Solak, the founder of Serbian cable TV operator United Group, is a financial backer of the group.
About the Confirmed Takeover
Before Solak moved ahead of his rivals in the offer, it was reported last month that two interested parties were in advanced talks with Jisheng about his stake in the club. Southampton will join a multi-club consortium comparable to the Red Bull family, which includes RB Leipzig and the New York Red Bulls, among others.
Solak started United Group in 2000 and has guided it to become a multi-national corporation with more than 40 million customers in eight countries. According to the company’s website, they earn more than £1.7 billion in revenue each year, and Solak is said to have a net worth of more than £1 billion.
According to the Serbian news website Kurir, Solak has managed to stay out of the spotlight in recent years, and he has ‘gone virtually unnoticed’ while amassing his vast fortune.
Jisheng, a former majority shareholder at Southampton, purchased his 80 percent stake in the club in 2017, but reports suggested he was eager to sell, and he has now lost control of the club.
About the Deal
According to reports, the Chinese investor paid £210 million for his stake, which he bought from Katharina Liebherr, who inherited the club from her late father Markus in 2010. After purchasing the club in 2009 while it was in serious financial straits, the Liebherr still maintains a 20% part in it.
Speaking about the deal on Tuesday, Solak said: ‘My partners and I have experience in long-term investments in the sports and entertainment industry and Sport Republic has been founded to combine this expertise and deliver something unique to the market.
‘Southampton has so many of the qualities we have been looking for in a major sports organization. It has a great management team, excellent talent development, talented teams playing attractive football, and a dedicated fan base.
‘We are delighted to be able to complete this acquisition as the first step towards execution of our investment strategy. Southampton will be a cornerstone of the organization we plan to build.’
CEO of Southampton
Meanwhile, Martin Semmens, CEO of Southampton, said: “Over the last two years, together with the shareholders of our club, we have searched for the right partner to take the club forward. Today we have found the perfect solution for our club.”
“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.”
“We are grateful for the support of Mr. Gao and Katharina that allowed us to take our time, turn away the wrong options and ultimately find the right partner for the future of this great club, its fans, staff, and the people of Southampton.”
“Today we welcome a new beginning with a new ownership group. We have found partners with ambition for the future, but with a clear understanding of what Southampton stands for and the direction, we must go in now. The strategy is to push forward with the plans we have had in place over the last two years, but with their support, we can now do this with a renewed focus and speed.”
Ankersen is the most well-known member of the Sport Republic group, having spent seven years with Brentford and overseen their promotion to the Premier League. Simultaneously, he was executive chairman of Danish club FC Midtjylland, where he oversaw the club’s most successful spell in its history, winning three Danish titles and qualifying for the Champions League group stages in 2020.