Local investor James Pallotta’s stint as owner and president of Italian soccer club AS Roma could be on the verge of a major transformation.
The club, one of Europe’s most storied soccer franchises, is actively exploring either an all-out sale or at least the sale of a significant stake, according to multiple reports. On Wednesday, AS Roma’s website confirmed that “preliminary talks are ongoing with some potential investors” in a “potential investment” in the franchise.
A spokesperson for Pallotta declined to comment.
Rumors of a sale or shakeup have been flying fast enough for the Italian stock exchange to halt trading of the team after exceptionally high volume drove up the stock price Wednesday.
Pallotta and a group of investors bought two-thirds of the shares of the AS Roma team, which was founded in 1927, for approximately $89 million in 2011, according to the New York Times. Pallotta became president of the team in 2012. For several years, he has said he is open to raising more equity in the team.
According to Rome newspaper Il Tempo via RomaPress, Pallotta has let it be known, on an informal basis, that he values the team at more than $1 billion, with much of the value contained in an oft-delayed new stadium project that he has been trying to make a reality since 2012.
The Houston-based Friedkin Group is the investment group believed to be seeking a significant portion of Roma shares.
According to Il Tempo, Goldman Sachs has been assisting sale efforts with international buyers, including a document promoting the team, “AS Roma Opportunity Overview: Unique opportunity to own and control an iconic Italian football club, located in one of the world’s most attractive markets and offering tangible opportunities for meaningful value creation.”
Raised in the North End, with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts and an MBA from Northeastern, Pallotta made his fortune in the investment world, first with the Essex and Tudor firms before founding the Raptor Group.
Pallotta was in the group of buyers that purchased the Celtics in 2002.
In the 2018-19 season, AS Roma finished in sixth place in Italy’s top Serie A league with an 18-8-12 record and reached the Round of 16 in the Champions League. A year earlier, Roma reached the semifinals of the Champions League
This season, AS Roma is again in sixth place with a 6-2-4 record.
The last time the team won a Serie A title was in 2000-01.
In a lengthy and colorfully worded letter to Roma fans this past May that was posted to its website, Pallotta addressed a number of complaints and controversies that swirled around his team before coming to the issue of selling the team.
“It’s obvious to me that there are certain people who are unhappy that they can’t manipulate, blackmail or berate me enough to get me to sell the team,” he wrote. “I understand the history of almost 3,000 years of Rome and I know how this works. If people think they’re going to drive me out, it’s just not going to happen.”