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Sensi family to sell football club

By Rashmi Kumar

Italy’s Sensi family, majority owners of Italpetroli, have reached an agreement to sell football club AS Roma to American tycoon Thomas DiBenedetto, in a further attempt to decrease debts at the family business.

DiBenedetto will acquire a 60% stake in the Italian football club, while UniCredit bank, which last year became co-owner of the club following a debt-for-equity swap with the Sensi family, will retain 40% control. The bank also currently holds a 49% stake in Italpetroli following unpaid debts amassed by the Sensi family.

Reports say that the Sensi family had earlier tried to sell AS Roma in 2004 to Russian investors, but was unsuccessful. This was followed by another attempted sale in 2009 to a Swiss group, which also failed. The club was put up for sale again in 2010 to restructure Italpetroli’s debt to UniCredit.  

If this sale goes through, DiBenedetto will become the first foreign owner of an Italian football club. No details of the terms of the transaction have been revealed, but the group said that the deal will be finalised soon.

The sale of AS Roma is a result of the financial problems faced by the oil and gas group. Rome-based Italpetroli amassed debts of over €300 million, with UniCredit taking a 49% stake in the company in 2004. In 2009 the bank also seized two of Italpetroli’s hotels – Hotel Filippo II and Sunbay Park Hotel and gave the company a 2010 deadline to repay its debts.

Italpetroli was founded in 1959 by Franco Sensi. He bought the football club in 1993, and made it public in 2000, while still retaining 67% of the club’s shares. The group announced in July 2010 that it will soon become fully owned by UniCredit bank.

Second-generation Rosella Sensi is president and chief executive of Italpetroli. She took over after the death of her father Franco in 2008. She is assisted by her sisters Christine Maria Sensi and Silvia Sensi.

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