Silvio Berlusconi close to selling AC Milan to Chinese investment group

Silvio Berlusconi's 30-year ownership of AC Milan is on the brink of coming to an end, with a statement confirming that a preliminary agreement for the sale of the club had been signed.

Berlusconi, a former Italian prime minister, is poised to sell 99.93 percent stake -- his entire holding -- to Chinese investors.

His Fininvest group, which officially holds the majority of Milan's shares, released the statement on Friday.

It said: "The president has approved the preliminary contract signed by the general manager of Fininvest, Danilo Pellegrino, and Han Li, representative of a group of Chinese investors, with reference to the total participation -- equal to 99.93 percent -- held by Fininvest in AC Milan.

"The investors operate via the management company Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing Co. Ltd.

"Belonging to this group, among others, are Haixia Capital, a Chinese state fund for developments and investments, and Yonghong Li, chairman of the management company, one of the promoters of the group with whom Fininvest has been negotiating for a long time."

The statement said a deal for Milan would be worth €740 million, taking into account the current debt "which is estimated at approximately €220m."

And it added that Berlusconi's aim was "to provide AC Milan, through an appropriate ownership structure, with greater financial resources now more essential for competing with the top football clubs of the world."

La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that an agreement with the Sino-Europe Investment Management Changxing group had been reached early on Friday.

As part of the deal, the group has agreed to "undertake important interventions of recapitalisation and patrimonial and financial strengthening amounting to a total of €350m over a period of three years, of which €100m is to be transferred upon closing," Fininvest said.

The statement denied there had been any talks with the Fosun group, which includes Cristiano Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes.

Berlusconi had been in negotiations with three interested parties over the past 18 months, with one of those Thai investor Bee Taechaubol.

Milan have won 28 trophies since he acquired the club in 1986, although they have failed to finish in the top six of Serie A in each of the past three seasons -- their worst run without European football in the Berlusconi era.