It was three months ago when Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir first met with Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti to hold talks about a potential takeover of the Italian club.
Thohir said back then that “The goal is to make Inter one of the top 10 teams in the world,” but was under no illusion as to whom he was dealing with. An eccentric oil tycoon who negotiated some of the biggest deals in the transfer market, Thohir knew this would be a long process, “I don’t know if the deal will go through or not. I don’t know, and I don’t know how long it will take,” he said back in July.
It has taken the Indonesian until October to convince Moratti to sell, relinquishing 70% of the club to Thohir’s International Sports Capital. It was Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera that reported the price at $340 million, meaning Inter is worth approximately $480 million, posting the Nerazzurri as the 13th most expensive club in the world according to Forbes. Thohir will control 35% of the shares with Moratti still involved on 30%, while Rosan Roselani and Handy Soetedjo, business partners of the Indonesian, will split the rest.
Thohir, who has a majority stake in the MLS club DC United and is also involved in a large portion of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, is the son of one of the founders of the Indonesian conglomerate Astra International.
His brother Garibaldi is valued at $1.15 billion, there is no fear of Thohir running out of money as Inter, who become the second foreign-owned club in Serie A after Roma, join the likes of PSG, Manchester City and AS Monaco who have benefited from wealthy investors. “Money won’t be lacking”, read a piece in La Gazzetta Dello Sport.
The issue will lie in whether Thohir will be truly motivated by success and if he has the desire to make his reign a success. “What’s doubtful is whether the passion is there” read the same piece in La Gazetta. He is following a tough act in Moratti, a server at the helm of the Nerazzurri since early 1995, winning 16 trophies.
He is also on his 20th manager since he first took the reigns and even though he is often criticised for the impulse action that has seen him dispose of 6 managers in the last 3 years, his loyalty and love for the club could never be called into question.
Moratti also successfully pulled off the then-world record transfer deal for 48 million Euro Christian Vieri back in the summer of 1999, and he has also sanctioned the purchases of the likes of Patrick Vieira, Ronaldo, Maicon, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Samuel Eto’o, Adriano and a whole array of other superstars.
Thohir, with no previous experience of dealing with European football, will find it difficult to attract the star names immediately, though he will take encouragement from Chelsea’s era under Roman Abramovich, as well as the Qatari Investment Authority at PSG and the Russian billions of Dmitry Rybovlev at Monaco, who have all achieved success on the back of spending big in the transfer market.
However it is likely that Thohir will continue with the economic model adopted by Inter in recent years, aiming to balance the books after they won the treble of the Champions League, Serie A and Coppa Italia back in 2010. Moratti has overseen cuts in back-room staff and a huge overhaul of players, notably the sales of Mario Balotelli, Samuel Eto’o and Giampoalo Pazzini which raised over £60 million in total, has helped to cut costs.
It is the reluctance to spend big that saw them deem Paulinho’s £16 million price-tag as too expensive in the summer and under Thohir’s guidance, aided by Moratti’s continuing presidency, it is likely that the austerity will remain in practice at the San Siro.
The Indonesian’s main aim will be too boost Inter’s revenue streams in Asia, utilising its main sponsors of Nike, Deutsche Bank, Tim, and Pirelli to develop the club’s global brand.
The Nerazzuri chief executive Ernesto Paolillo and business executive Marco Fassone have experienced great success in recent years as they sought to build Inter’s standing on the world market, and now Thohir’s reputation, contacts and business acumen will be allowed to build upon that work.
“I think Inter’s history is going to be enriched by a new season thanks to our new international partners who, I am sure, will contribute to a continued string of successes,” Moratti told the club’s official website, “The new partners’ enthusiasm and pragmatism are certainly a guarantee for the future.”
The new owner of Inter has made it clear from preliminary negotiations that Walter Mazzarri, the coach who is set to inherit the new era, will be afforded space to do his work and that his future will remain safe.
Despite only being on a two year contract that started this summer, a direct result of the uncertainty surrounding the takeover, Inter’s bright start to this season, in which they have lost just one of their opening seven fixtures, could see the former Napoli coach rewarded with a new deal before 2015. His immediate aim will be to direct Inter back to European competition after finishing last season in the disappointment of ninth.
It will be the inaugural year of an exciting new period in the history of Inter Milan and with Thohir bringing his wide-reaching business knowledge alongside Moratti’s experience and passion for success, it has the potential for an extremely prosperous partnership.
“I am honoured that Mr Moratti has entrusted me with the responsibility to lead Inter into the next chapter, and I am excited to have him continue in the future as my partner,” said Thohir upon completing his deal. “I am an entrepreneur, but first of all I am a supporter and a sports lover, this is a very special day in my life”.
Now he has to ensure his beginning was indeed a very special day in Inter’s.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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