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Southampton takeover: Who are the new owners?

| 04.01.2022

Analysis of the Southampton takeover

Southampton are under new ownership after Chinese businessman Jisheng Gao sold his controlling stake to investment company Sport Republic.

The group now has an 80 per cent stake in the Premier League club, with Katharina Liebherr retaining her 20 per cent share.

Here we take a closer look at the Southampton takeover and the club’s new owners.

Who is behind the Southampton takeover?

The Sport Republic group is fronted by former Brentford director of football Rasmus Ankersen and chaired by co-founder Henrik Kraft, but the funds for the Saints deal have been provided by Serbian businessman Dragan Solak.

The new company says Southampton is one of a number of planned investments in sport, and added in a statement: “Sport Republic’s vision is to apply proprietary intelligence and data analytics to help sports businesses and sports technology companies reach their full potential.”

Who is Dragan Solak?

Solak is the founder and chairman of Serbian media group United Group, which began with an investment in a cable company but has grown into a major broadcaster, broadband and mobile company in southeast Europe.

United Media operates five national broadcasters and more than 50 pay-TV channels as well as a stable of newspapers, magazines and radio stations.

Solak has a number of other business interests, including motion picture production company VANS. A keen golfer, he is also chairman of Eligo, a Surrey-based company specialising in golf tourism.

Who is Rasmus Ankersen?

Ankersen serves as the chief executive of Sport Republic. The Dane has seven years of experience in football, having worked at both Brentford and Danish Super League side FC Midtjylland in recent years.

Ankersen joined Brentford in 2015 as co-director of football and was part of their success in earning promotion to the English top flight for the first time in 74 years.

At the same time, he was executive chairman of Midtjylland during a period in which they won three Danish league titles and qualified for he group stages of the Champions League in 2020.

Brentford announced in mid-December that Ankersen would be leaving to set up Sport Republic.

Who is Henrik Kraft?

Sport Republic chairman Kraft has a background as an investor in a number of sports technology companies, and has previously been an investor in Solak’s United Group.

What will the Southampton takeover mean?

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.

In a statement, Semmens said: “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.”

Southampton are currently 14th in the Premier League – 10 points clear of the relegation zone and four points behind Leicester in 10th. Saints are 4/1 for a top-half finish and 12/1 to be relegated.

View the latest Premier League odds

All odds and markets correct as of date of publication

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Author

Andrew McDermott