Can Indonesian tycoon turn Inter around?

Inter Milan has had a difficult patch since winning the Champions League in 2010.  It has finished no higher than fifth in Serie A in the past three years and has fallen to 15th in the latest Football Money League from Deloitte.

Indonesian tycoon Erick Thohir now owns 70 per cent of the club (with business partner Handy Soetedjo) and is aiming to make it one of the top ten revenue earning clubs again and a contender in the Champions League.

Inter Milan has had a difficult patch since winning the Champions League in 2010.  It has finished no higher than fifth in Serie A in the past three years and has fallen to 15th in the latest Football Money League from Deloitte.

Indonesian tycoon Erick Thohir now owns 70 per cent of the club (with business partner Handy Soetedjo) and is aiming to make it one of the top ten revenue earning clubs again and a contender in the Champions League.

Thohir is clear about his strategy.  He told the Financial Times, ‘I want to use the US model, where sport is like the media business, with income from advertising and content, mixed with the consumer goods industry, selling jerseys and licensed products.’   He invested in Major Soccer League team DC United in 2012.

The Asian market, with its growing middle class, where 60 per cent of Inter fans (18 million in Indonesia alone) are said to be, is seen as key.   Mr Thohir signed ageing defender Nemanja Vidic in part because he was seen ‘as a good brand for the Asian market’.

Mr Thohir is only the second owner of a top Italian team after an American buyout of AS Roma in 2011. Italian football needs shaking up with Seria A eclipsed by the Premier League and the Bundesliga. However, just as with the Italian economy as a whole, it’s a big challenge.   It’s a matter of culture as well as structure, finance and organisation.   More than a whiff of scandal has surrounded Serie A.

The stadiums are ageing and are ill-suited to families and corporate hospitality.   The ‘ultras’ provide an intimidating atmopshere.   In order to start the process of change, Michael Bolingbroke, former chief operating officer of Manchester United, has been brought in as chief executive, while a marketing director has been brought in from Apple iTunes and a chief financial officer from DC United.  As far as Mr Thohir is concerned it’s a business investment, although it’s evident that prestige is also involved.

 

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