Own goal

August 7, 2009

For titans of new money, owning a sports team can be an appealing addition to a portfolio. So it was not surprising several years back to see American hedge fund and private equity executives buying baseball and basketball teams and Russian oligarchs acquiring English soccer teams. But in a global downturn, there aren’t many in a strong enough position to step up as the next nouveau riche in the world of professional sports.

For recession-proof new money, there is always organized crime

People working on behalf of the Camorra mafia clan based outside Naples tried unsuccessfully to acquire a controlling stake in the publicly traded Roman soccer club Lazio, say Italian police, which has arrested four suspects in connection with the attempt.

“There was a real attempt by organized crime to take over a listed company,” Guido Gentile, a lawyer who represents both the club and its president, Claudio Lotito, told Bloomberg News.

The police, Bloomberg says, are seeking three others including Giorgio Chinaglia, a former star striker for Lazio and one of the celebrated imports of the New York Cosmos in the 1970s.

In 2007, Italian market regulators fined Chinaglia 4.2 million euros after he announced that he represented a consortium interested in taking over Lazio but never identified who the investors were. Shares of Lazio rose afterward. Chinaglia has claimed that the bid was legitimate.

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