Southampton have been taken over by Serbian businessman Dragan Solak’s Sport Republic investment firm, the English Premier League club announced Tuesday.
Sport Republic, who specialise in sport and entertainment investments, have paid a reported £100 million ($135 million) for the 80 percent shareholding in the south coast side previously owned by Jisheng Gao.
The club itself did not disclose the financial elements of the acquisition.
But while the Chinese businessman, who purchased his stake in 2017, is bowing out, Katharina Liebherr, who inherited the club from her late father Markus in 2010 when they were in League One, has retained her 20 percent share in the Saints.
Solak is the lead investor in London-based Sport Republic, a company founded by Rasmus Ankersen — who recently stepped down as Brentford co-director of football — and Henrik Kraft.
“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,” said Solak in a Southampton statement.
“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…Southampton will be a cornerstone of the organisation we plan to build.”
Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team are currently 14th in the Premier League, 10 points above the relegation zone.
Sport Republic said Southampton chief executive Martin Semmens would remain in charge of day-to-day operations, with chairman Kraft adding: “We will be an active and engaged owner, but we will not be starting any revolutions.
“We were attracted to Southampton because it is already a well-run club that follows a clearly defined strategy.”
Southampton’s most successful period came under celebrated manager Lawrie McMenemy, with the club winning the 1976 FA Cup final and finishing runners up to Liverpool in the 1983/84 edition of the old First Division, the forerunner of the Premier League.
More recently, Southampton were beaten in the 2003 FA Cup final and were also the losing finalists in the 2017 League Cup.
The club were in the top flight of English football from 1977-2005 before returning to the Premier League 10 years ago.
Semmens said Southampton had “searched the world for good people with the ambition and resources to lead us into the next era and I am happy to confirm we have found them”.
He added: “Sport Republic are experienced investors, but also experienced within the world of elite professional sports. That combination is very hard to find, and we are thrilled to have reached an agreement that secures our short and long-term future.
“We are grateful for the support of Mr Gao and Katharina that allowed us to take our time, turn away the wrong options and ultimately find the right partner for the future of this great club, its fans, staff and the people of Southampton.”