Southampton FC Taken Over by Serbian Billionaire-Backed Group

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Congratulations Southampton FC, like Newcastle United, you’ve joined the billionaire boys club of the English Premier League this season. Tuesday afternoon saw the announcement that Saints have been acquired by Sport Republic, a London based investment firm in the sports and entertainment industry.

Sport Republic, backed by lead investor and Serbian billionaire Dragan Solak, was founded by Henrik Kraft and Rasmus Ankersen. The group now owns 80% of the club, completing their takeover from Chinese businessman Gao Jisheng, who reached 80% of the club in August 0f 2017.

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“Today we welcome a new beginning with a new ownership group,” reads a statement from Martin Semmens, Southampton FC CEO.

“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. Continuity, stability, and clarity of the way forward are equally as important as the new initiatives and ideas we can now bring to the club.

“Sport Republic is being built to provide a network of people, clubs, and technology that allows the clubs within it to grow every day and gain the advantages you need to be successful. As a club, we have never wanted to buy success, but to earn it. Sport Republic gives us the power to improve our operations at every level, helping us to reach for the success our staff work so hard for, and our fans crave.”

Solak, Founder and Board Chairman of United Group, a central Serbian based telecom giant, added the following:

“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.”

Southampton have struggled to stay up in the top flight in recent seasons, and they currently sit 14th in the table, but a solid 10 points from the drop zone. It will be fascinating to see what happens to the club now that Solak is in charge.

Will he ramp up investment in club infrastructure and the player roster? Will it be enough to transform the south coast club from a lower table side to one that qualifies for Europe regularly? What will SFC now become?

It’s a monumental day in the club’s history- that much is certain.

Said Kraft, the Sport Republic Chair and Tech/Telco/Sports Media Investor:

“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.

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“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.”

Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”

He has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcastFollow him on Twitter and Instagram

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