Southampton takeover: Investment firm backed by tycoon Dragan Solak completes deal for majority stake

An investment firm backed by Serbian businessman Dragan Solak has completed the purchase of an 80 per cent majority stake in Southampton, the Premier League club has confirmed.

Solak, who is the lead investor of acquisition group Sport Republic, has bought Jisheng Gao’s stake in the club, with former majority owner Katharina Liebherr retaining 20 per cent.

London-based firm Sport Republic were founded by former Brentford director of football Rasmus Ankersen and Henrik Kraft, who confirmed that Southampton CEO Martin Semmens will continue to run the day-to-day operations of the club.

Chinese businessman Goa paid around £200m to take over the Saints in August 2017 and had reportedly been looking to sell for several years.

“Over the last two years, together with the shareholders of our club, we have searched for the right partner to take the club forward,” Semmens said. “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.”

In a statement, Solak, who made his fortune in telecoms after founding the United Group, 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 organisation. 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 a first step towards execution of our investment strategy. Southampton will be a cornerstone of the organisation we plan to build.”

Chairman of Sport Republic Kraft added: “We will be an active and engaged owner, but we will not be starting any revolutions. We were attracted to Southampton because it is already a well-run club that follows a clearly defined strategy.

“Southampton’s CEO Martin Semmens will continue to run the day-to-day operations of the club, and Sport Republic will be working closely with him and his team to help the club grow.

“Whilst Southampton is Sport Republic’s first acquisition, we expect more investments to follow over the coming years. 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 and we are very excited about the journey ahead.”

Southampton are 14th in the Premier League under manager Ralph Hasenhuttl and have finished in the bottom half of the table in each of the last four seasons.

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