With all due respect to the impending returns of Lorenzo Pellegrini and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, not to mention Nicolo Zaniolo's coming out party against Armenia, all those stories pale in comparison to what may or may not be going on behind the scenes in Roma. Earlier this week, we passed along word that Dan Friedkin, a Houston-based auto billionaire, was interested in investing in Roma, presumably because that's what billionaires do with their obscene wealth.
We concluded that piece by warning that this smoke could soon turn into fire. As we head into the weekend, the Friedkin rumors haven't become a full-blow conflagration yet, but they are generating an awful lot of heat.
While our attention should be shifting towards the Brescia fixture, this story is simply too big to ignore, particularly as new wrinkles begin to appear. What was initially viewed as a simple investment from Friedkin is slowly turning into a full-scale takeover.
Just yesterday, Il Messaggero (link via Football Italia) reported that James Pallotta had set a price Roma, some €800 million. This rumor, faint though it was, brought out all the usual football club buying vultures, as several investment groups from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates declared their interest—either publicly or through some sort of secret billionaire intermediary channels—in purchasing the club.
Still, despite these new details, word from the club was simply that Roma were seeking new investors and nothing more. However, as we pointed out earlier this week, Friedkin's estimated net-worth is nearly four times that of Pallotta's, and given everything Pallotta has endured (the stadium delays, fan protests, the harassment of his family's other businesses, among others), it wouldn't be surprising if decided to take Friedkin's offer and simply cash out on his investment.
All of which brings us to today's news: the reports that Friedkin, rather than simply looking to invest, wants to obtain a majority share in the club. According to Leggo, Friedkin wants to close this operation as early as January. If Friedkin can beat the Qataris to the punch, he will reportedly meet Pallotta's €800 million asking price in two €400 million installments. While Leggo didn't speculate on the €270 million owed to Goldman Sachs, one would presume it would be included in the pay-off schedule at some point (or reckoned with in some other fashion), bringing the total cost of the operation north of €1 billion.
Friedkin recently spent five days in Rome to kick off the negotiations and has entrusted his representatives to conclude the business sooner rather than later. With the Qatari groups, and reportedly even another American party, interested in the transaction, expediency is the order of the day. Should this sale come to fruition, Pallotta may remain on as a minority stakeholder in the club, effectively ending his seven-year run as Roma's owner.
We'll track this story as it develops, but needless to say, it would flip the Romaverse on its head, kicking off the new decade in oh so typical Roma fashion. Chaos.