Dan Friedkin’s potential takeover of AS Roma, which was a hair's breadth away from completion prior to the pandemic, may have some faint hope of revival, but the potential failure of that move has put out a clarion call for billionaires looking to get involved in the football business. In the past month alone, we rekindled the dormant Mino Raiola takeover rumors and dealt with the prospect of Roma falling into the hands of the Saudi royals, but Wednesday's rumors have thrown a new name into the mix.
Joseph DaGrosa, a Yonkers native who made his money in the investment sector (not to mention buying 248 Burger King franchises in bankruptcy), is no stranger to the business of football, having owned Ligue 1 club Bordeaux for all of one year in 2018. After selling the club after barely a year, DaGrosa's taste for football wasn't satiated, as he was reportedly in the running to takeover Newcastle, only to see his bid thwarted by those very same Saudi Royals.
With his Premiership dream dashed, La Repubblica reports that DaGrosa has shifted his attention to Roma. While the Giallorossi aren't in one of the marquee leagues, they could be at the center of DaGrosa's well-publicized plan to recreate the City Football Group approach, a method that could prove even more cost effective during the current pandemic. As he told NBC Sports last month:
In this environment, given what’s going on with the coronavirus pandemic, we believe there’s an opportunity to recreate City Football Group at a fraction of the cost,” DaGrosa told ProSoccerTalk this week. “Club valuations are already coming down. In many cases, clubs are going to be effectively taken over by their lenders. There’s going to be some great opportunities in the next 12 months, and great opportunities to get world-class players at a fraction of the cost. This is the time to capitalize it.”
DaGrosa's plan to create a City-like hub with a network of academies, scouts and feeder clubs, certainly isn't lacking ambition. His plan, reportedly called the Kapital Football Group, would see DaGrossa purchase an “anchor club”—presumably Newcastle at the time this quote was provided, but likely Roma under this scenario—and then invest in three to five satellite clubs around Europe and South America, making Roma the hub of a busy and buzzing footballing network.
Despite his short stay with Bordeaux, DaGrosa sees football as a sort of future-proof industry, telling Forbes:
It turns out that sports as an investment are actually a pretty good investment. A lot of people think that it is a vanity investment, and in some respects, that is true because a lot of individuals own teams
But actually, as an asset sub-class, sports has done remarkably well over the past thirty years. And if you start thinking prospectively, which sports are likely to do well over the next 10, 20, 30 years, soccer has massive potential.
Whole industries have been wiped out due to technological change. One of the few businesses that we believe that will stand the test of time is sports because if you view it through a different prism, sports is going to provide content for a lot these new entrants into the world of content creation.
We'll say this much for DaGrosa: he definitely has an interest, motivation and plan to succeed in the business of football, just don't tell that to Bordeaux fans, who were quick to deliver a word of warning to their Roman compatriots:
Amis Romains, ne faites pas la même erreur que Bordeaux avec Da Grosa. Cet homme et sa bande (Hugo Varela) sont des escrocs, ils ont vidé les caisses de Bordeaux et sont partis comme des voleurs ( plus de 50 M€ de déficit en 1 an).DA GROSA OUT !SURTOUT NE VENDEZ PAS A DA GROSA !— cavé (@Cav87Cav) June 3, 2020
DaGrosa's plan, such as it is, seems to make a great deal of sense. After all, if you're going to copy anyone, Manchester City is certainly a wise choice, but given what happened with Bordeaux, one can't help but think DaGrosa is simply biding his time until he can find that “anchor club” in the Premiership. It's far easier to copy City when you're playing in the same league, with the same exposure and the same access to Premiership TV revenues.
The challenge for DaGrosa would be to implement that same plan in an environment that is nowhere near as lucrative as the Premiership, which, as we've seen over the past nine years, is easier said than done.
We've said it many times before, but Roma are a sleeping giant in global football, but it will take an exact alchemy of investment, pragmatism and patience to unleash that beast on Europe. DaGrosa has the experience and seemingly the know-how to make it happen, but would he have the patience to deal with some of Serie A's idiosyncrasies and anachronisms?