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Southampton FC Confirm That The Takeover Has been Completed
Tuesday, 4th Jan 2022 16:18

Social media has been rife this afternoon with the news that a takeover of Southampton FC is imminent, now the club has announced that it has been completed and that the company Sport Republic have taken a controlling interest.

Some have been critical of Jisheng Gao, but the reality is that he has left us in no worse position than when he arrived, in fact he has left us in better shape in terms of the management and running of the club, he could have taken the money and run, yet he preferred to make a loss on selling it to the right sort of buyer rather than any old chancer who popped up.

Perhaps that is a simplistic viewpoint, but it it is a factual one, Gao hasn't been able to invest how he would have liked, but he has turned the club into one that can run without major investment, it has been out of necessity, but it has made us streamlined.

It now seems he has kept his word on only selling to the right people, Sport Republic seem to be a company who are interested in building football clubs through a business model rather than an owner who has bought us on a whim, in short they are following same path that Markus Liebherr outlines for the club he never intended to pump multi millions in he wanted it to be run as a business.

So Sport Republic will seemingly be a regime of evolving Southampton FC not pumping in the cash, but in my mind that is not a bad thing.

This is the statement issued by the club:

Southampton Football Club can today confirm that Sport Republic has completed the acquisition of a controlling stake in Southampton Football Club.

Sport Republic is an investment firm in the sports and entertainment industry. They have purchased the shareholding of the club held by Mr Gao and will work in partnership with Katharina Liebherr who retains her minority shareholding.

Everyone within the Southampton community would like to wish Mr Gao and his family well for their future.

Martin Semmens, CEO of Southampton Football Club, said:

“Over the last two years, together with the shareholders of our club, we have searched for the right partner to take the club forward. Today we have found the perfect solution for our club.

“Sport Republic are experienced investors, but also experienced within the world of elite professional sports. That combination is very hard to find, and we are thrilled to have reached an agreement that secures our short and long-term future.

“We are grateful for the support of Mr Gao and Katharina that allowed us to take our time, turn away the wrong options and ultimately find the right partner for the future of this great club, its fans, staff and the people of Southampton.

“Today we welcome a new beginning with a new ownership group. 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.

“Everyone at Southampton welcomes Dragan, Henrik, Rasmus and the people within Sport Republic to our great club. We searched the world for good people with the ambition and resources to lead us into the next era and I am happy to confirm we have found them. We can’t wait to get started and be part of the future of Sport Republic.”

Commenting on the agreement, the Lead Investor of Sport Republic, Dragan Šolak, said:

“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. We are delighted to be able to complete this acquisition as a first step towards execution of our investment strategy. Southampton will be a cornerstone of the organisation we plan to build.”

The Chairman of Sport Republic, Henrik Kraft, added:

“We will be an active and engaged owner, but we will not be starting any revolutions. We were attracted to Southampton because it is already a well-run club that follows a clearly defined strategy.

“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.

“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.”

About Sport Republic:

Sport Republic is a London-based investment firm in the sports and entertainment industry. Founded by Henrik Kraft and Rasmus Ankersen and backed by Lead Investor Dragan Šolak, Sport Republic’s vision is to apply proprietary intelligence and data analytics to help sports businesses and sports technology companies reach their full potential. More information about Sport Republic can be found on www.sportrepublic.com.

Dragan Šolak is the Lead Investor of Sport Republic. He is also the Founder and Chairman of the Advisory Board of United Group. Under Šolak's stewardship, United Group has grown from a green field investment in a cable operator in Central Serbia to become a leader in Southeast Europe in telecommunication and media sectors. UG Telecom is delivering broadband, mobile and pay-TV services to a market of more than 40 million people across eight countries. United Group’s media arm, United Media, is a leading media company with five national broadcasters, more than 50 pay TV channels, a very successful digital portfolio of 28 web portals, eight newspapers and magazines and five radio stations, producing in excess of 20,000 hours of original content annually whilst it also operates a global streaming TV service. United Group is dedicated to the production of renewable energy for its own use and for the market and founded an award-winning R&D centre using local talents – United Cloud. Šolak has founded and developed many other companies, his first being the motion picture production and distribution company VANS, which he established in 1990 with a group of friends and movie enthusiasts. Šolak is also a passionate golfer who was deeply involved in the development of golf in the Balkan region and serves as the Chairman of the Board of the international golf group Eligo.

Henrik Kraft is the Chairman and co-founder of Sport Republic and has spent the last 20 years investing in the Technology, Telecoms and Media industry including as an active early-stage investor in sports technology companies such as Tonsser, Sportlight, Wave.tv, Oura Ring, Sava Health and MastersApp. Most recently, Kraft spent 10 years at KKR where he was a Partner and head of the Technology and Telecoms team in Europe, playing leading roles in investments including TDC, Versatel, Visma and United Group. Prior to joining KKR, Kraft worked at Apax Partners for nearly seven years having originally started his career as a strategy consultant with Braxton Associates.

Rasmus Ankersen is the CEO and co-founder of Sport Republic. Over the last seven years he has worked as a football executive. From 2015-2021 he has overseen Brentford FC’s football department as a Co-Director of Football, culminating in winning promotion to the Premier League for the first time in 74 years in May 2020. In the same time period, he has been the Executive Chairman of the Danish club FC Midtjylland and overseen the most successful period in the club’s history, winning three Danish Championships, qualifying for the Champions League group stages in 2020 as well as making the club highly profitable. Ankersen is also the author of several bestselling books on talent development, including The Gold Mine Effect and Hunger in Paradise.

Photo: Action Images

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PaleRider added 16:23 - Jan 4
Cautiously optimistic! At the moment just happy that Gao has gone - he never gave a toss!

Saint4Life247 added 17:07 - Jan 4
I'd be interested to see if kraft and Ankersen will eventually replace Semmens and be the face of the operation. They seem fairly legit and knowledgeable... Solak's involvement raises concern as he's hardly whiter than white, plus being a tax dodger suggests he doesn't like spending money.... however, i'm staying open minded and optimistic about the future and will support the takeover until we know otherwise

landsdownsaint added 17:20 - Jan 4
I will be interested too see what Simon Jordan says about this on TS tomorrow morning unless he’s already said about it today ? He will know about this investment group & im worried my hearts gonna be broken come 10.30 tomorrow !… the words investment group in football scares me

highfield49 added 18:00 - Jan 4
As per my post earlier, I've still got alarm bells ringing in my head. I'm now doing my best to be cautiously optimistic and lower the decibel count. However, I also have to realise that there is absolutely nothing that I can do to influence the ongoing change of ownership so fingers crossed and we keep marching on to new horizons.

Crispinmumbles added 18:14 - Jan 4
I think this is great news. Some real knowhow coming on board and Gao is gone and good riddance to him and his daughter. Lost £100m! I'm laugfhing my bottom off. Don't treat our club as a means of making a quick buck.

Chesham_Saint added 18:20 - Jan 4
Completely underwhelming. Whoopy doo.

ItchenNorth added 18:28 - Jan 4
It is good that these people(or some of them) have experience in English football. Time will tell how deep their pockets will be, but it seems to me (based on what I've read), we can expect some cash to start us off on the PR road; but likely after than, it's back to business as usual.

None of that's bad. I don't want some stupidity rich person or group to come in and rip the soul of this club appart. I don't even want Saints to be a regular Champions League side with a 50+ thousand stadium full of glory hunters. I just want investment to keep us in the top flight and a few cup wins every now and then.

WestSussexSaint added 18:47 - Jan 4
Whether Sports Republic prove to be good or bad owners will only be proven in the longer term. One thing is certain though is that the situation around the sale of the club had to come to a conclusion and that has to be a good thing. At least the club and management can make some plans for this and the next transfer window with more certainty.

Monksway added 19:04 - Jan 4
I think that we were in more financial trouble than was being reported and Gau was desperate to sell, constrained by Semmens and Kat. Hopefully this will stabilise the situation. I don't think it will mean a significant shift in the financial approach. Relieved rather than enthused.

SanMarco added 19:51 - Jan 4
I suppose it might be alright. I am going to follow the instructions and be cautiously optimistic. And as highfield points out there is feck all any of us can do about it anyway...

kristianJ added 20:41 - Jan 4
I think this is great news, we have owners who have a track record of success in Denmark and Brentford, they’ll tweak what we already do well and make evidence based improvements. They might not splash fortunes, but we were never likely to get a multi billionaire owner. I’d rather have smart owners that invest sensibly and in a sustainable manner. Our best transfer business this summer was buying Tino for £5mil. We can thrive by being shrewd rather than trying to compete with bigger clubs that just waste money.

Block8 added 21:29 - Jan 4
Time will tell if it is a dream or nightmare but at least there is a bit of stability.
We may just be able to hang on to our better players and have the chance to develop even more promising youngsters.
We're never going to be one of the big boys, we need to be able to live with that!
Gao was never the enemy some portrayed and didn't screw us over, even though he could have. We have a chance, hopefully to move forward, let's keep our fingers crossed that we do!

Boris1977 added 22:04 - Jan 4
Most of us aren't interested in a sugar daddy who kills the club with billions of pounds of cupboard love.

Hopefully steady and regular investment to help build and keep a decent squad together rather than making 'statement' signings which backfire and cost the club money and lost time


SaintPaulVW added 23:33 - Jan 4
I get the sense that it was a 'fire sale' by Gao. I'm guessing the driver was the problems in the Chinese property market which meant that he needs to realise cash as fast as possible.

£100m for an 80% share in a stable EPL club seems fairly cheap based on what Newcastle and Burnley went for.

Whether this has attracted investors looking to turn a short term profit or a long term investment project, we just don't know. Gao's company was supposedly building up a portfolio of sports clubs. How did that turn out,?

The involvement of Kraft and Ankerson seems hopeful. I suspect Semmens is just staying on for a proper handover period and will depart shortly. However, we shall see, he's proven his worth and that must have caught the purchasers' eyes as they did their due diligence.

As the saying goes 'Better is always different but different isn't always better'. Fingers crossed.


DPeps added 09:55 - Jan 5
I'm cautiously optimistic...
Not sure that the hating on Gao is fair. He was hamstrung by rules on overseas investment mandated by the Chinese state, and I'm guessing that he's actually lost a shedload of money in the process

TeamCortese added 10:28 - Jan 5
This is very good news for the club. Hopefully, we'll have a business model that acts in the interest of the club more for footballing reasons.

In particular, I'm very happy that Rasmus Ankersen is involved. He seems pretty switched on! Fingers crossed we can move on from the previous 4-years of stagnation. The only silver lining from that period was getting Ralph in.


misterg added 15:41 - Jan 5
Cautiously optimistic.
I think the point that is being missed by most is that due to COVID we had to take an 80 million pound loan to see us through the pandemic. This un-repaid 80 million had to come off the price and really meant that Mr.Gao financed this loan as he lost it in the sale.
By my calculation the true value for 100% of the shareholding is 225 million not 100 million as is being suggested by the Press.

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