AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi has signed a deal with Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol for an eight-week period of exclusivity to negotiate the sale of the ailing Serie A giants.

“In this period Silvio Berlusconi, who will continue to be president, and Taechaubol will work together to build a big and ambitious economic and sports project to return Milan to the highest level of Italian and international football,” the pair said in a joint statement.

Under any sale deal, Berlusconi would own 52 percent of the club while Bee, the executive director of a southeast Asian private equity group, would hold 48 percent, the statement said.

Italian media reports said the Thai businessman had agreed to stump up 480 million euros ($533 million) for such a deal.

“The deal is a good thing for AC Milan,” Berlusconi said on the margins of a political assembly.

“Bee will be able to develop the Milan brand in the Asian markets. Let’s hope we can go forward (with the deal) to make Milan a leading club again,” he said.

The Gazzetta dello Sport daily, which called it a “historic day”, said Bee had arrived in secret in Italy late Thursday and gone to speak with Berlusconi in the billionaire’s luxury villa near Milan just before midnight.

After leaving frustrated, negotiations picked up again quickly on Friday afternoon and a deal was struck in under an hour, the paper said on its website.

Speculation over the seven-time European champions’ sale has been raging for months, with Bee emerging as the leading contender.

At the start of May the former Italian prime minister had announced the pair had reached a deal, but he appeared to backpedal and went on to court Chinese investors.

Since Berlusconi bought AC Milan in 1986, the club has been crowned European champions five times, but they have fallen on hard times and have gone into decline since they last won the Italian title in 2011. – Agence France-Presse

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