The Saints' stadium, St Mary's. Alamy Stock Photo

Southampton takeover by Serbian billionaire completed

Chinese businessman Jisheng Gao has been looking to sell the 80% stake he purchased in Saints in 2017 for several years.

LAST UPDATE | 4 Jan 2022

SOUTHAMPTON HAVE CONFIRMED the club’s takeover by Dragan Solak-backed investment firm Sport Republic.

Chinese businessman Jisheng Gao has been looking to sell the 80% stake he purchased in Saints in 2017 for several years.

Gao has now sold his shareholding in Southampton to sport and entertainment investment firm Sport Republic, with Katharina Liebherr retaining her 20% stake.

Serbian businessman Solak is the lead investor in the London-based firm, which was founded by Rasmus Ankersen – who recently stepped down as Brentford co-director of football – and Henrik Kraft.

Solak 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 fanbase.

“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.”

Saints say Sport Republic’s “vision is to apply proprietary intelligence and data analytics to help sports businesses and sports technology companies reach their full potential”.

Ankersen, who until recently was executive chairman of FC Midtjylland on top of his role at Brentford, is chief executive of the firm, with fellow co-founder Kraft acting as chairman.

“We will be an active and engaged owner, but we will not be starting any revolutions,” Kraft said.

“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.”

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