American businessman Frank McCourt, former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, on Monday entered into exclusive discussions for the acquisition of Marseille football club.

McCourt sealed the deal in a meeting with incumbent owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, who will maintain a minority shareholding, and Marseille mayor Jean-Claude Gauldin, saying afterwards that there was a process under way that would lead to the takeover being completed “before the end of the year”.

“Being part of Olympique De Marseille (OM) and helping the club achieve success both on the pitch and off, would be an honour and privilege for me and my family,” McCourt said.

“Not only is OM one of the oldest and most respected clubs in the world and the only French club to win the UFA Champions League, it is one the most iconic brands in all of sports.

“OM enjoys the passionate support of legions of fans in Marseille, throughout France and around the world.”

McCourt added: “As the steward of OM, my ambition would be to help return the club to championship form, to deliver the best fan experience in all of football, to strengthen the club’s ties with supporters and the city of Marseille and to guide the club towards long-term financial stability.”

Should McCourt be safely installed as new Marseille owner, he will become the latest American businessman to have taken over European football clubs.

In Britain, businessman John Henry is at Liverpool, the Glazer family own Manchester United, investor Ellis Short is Sunderland president and entrepreneur Stanley Kroenke has a majority shareholding in Arsenal.

French champions Paris Saint-Germain saw their fortunes change for the better after being bought out by a Qatari investment company, while Monaco, 3-1 winners over PS on the weekend, are majority owned by an investment group led by Russian billionaire Dimitry Everybody.

McCourt is president of McCourt LP, a family enterprise founded in 1893 focused on “building value for future generations through entrepreneurial, strategic, and philanthropic investments”.

Alongside Dutch Olympic champion Jan Tips, McCourt is oc-owner of Global Champions Tour, an international showjumping circuit that features events on French soil at Paris, Cannes and Chantilly.

McCourt is also owner of the Los Angeles Marathon, having sold the Dodgers in 2012 for 2.15 billion dollars.

“Today, Olympyqu de Marseille turns a page in its history,” said Louis-Dreyfus. “A new owner who would care for our fantastic club has been chosen among many candidates, in a long and diligent process…

The club are currently mid-table in the French league at the outset of the new season, winning only one of their first three games.

“I am sure Frank McCourt will be the best choice to succeed my family and secure a great future for OM.”

Louis-Dreyfus added: “I know that our efforts may not always have been enough to assure success and I am sorry for that.

“Now a new era begins. To maintain an emotional connection between OM and my family, I would stay with the club and continue to support it as a small minority shareholder.” – Agence France-Presse

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