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Is Erick Thohir the New Internazionale Investor?

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Patrick McDermott

Erick Thohir is the name that is currently causing a stir among the Inter faithful. There has already been at least one negotiation over the ins and outs of any deal and there is rumored to be another one scheduled.

WHO IS HE?

According to Wikipedia he is the son of Teddy Thohir who is a partner in one of Indonesia’s largest conglomerates called Astra International, which seems to deal in manufacture and distribution of cars in Indonesia. Since 2000, Erick has owned wholly or in part several magazines, several television stations, several newspapers and several websites. There is also a reference to a coal mining company that he founded with his brother that was later sold to a bigger company. The coal mining thing is interesting only in the fact that it seems completely out of place with his otherwise communication/media holdings. Mostly divested of these holdings, it seems that he retains some shares in his businesses.

Erick is reportedly educated in the US, earning a masters degree in 1993 but I can’t find any reference to the University that he attended. He has already started to step away from the media empire that he was pivotal in creating. There are references to being a leader in an Indonesian basketball league and/or an Indonesian basketball team.

More recently he has made his biggest waves in the NBA, being part of a consortium that owns the Philadelphia 76ers. He also is a major share holder in MLS’s DC United.

WHAT KIND OF SPORTS GUY IS HE?

Considering the number of businesses that Erick Thohir has held at one time, plus all the sports entities that he’s involved in, I can’t see how he can be anything other than a money guy who is hands off. The rumor is that the DC United fanbase considers him an absentee owner. However, there has to be a consideration regarding MLS’s weird single entity organization. There is no way of knowing that what is true for DC United won’t be true for Inter.

WHAT DOES HE MEAN TO US?

And that may be what the negotiations with Inter are about. Moratti has at times said that he doesn’t want to divest himself of the majority share of Inter, but in the past he has said that he has tried to sell the team in the mid 2000s before Calciopoli broke. My feeling is that he wouldn’t mind selling those shares for the right price, considering how much he has sunk into Inter, but he honestly seems to want to dig the team out of the Post-Treble doldrums first.

Practically, no one is going to invest in Inter for a minority share, while the club is so venerable to take over. The team is still deep in the red, more so that 30 million Euros from the Champions League eludes us for the second straight season. Also since there is no stadium, the team doesn’t actually own any real assets that aren’t included in the value of players of the team – and the bulk of those assets has already been sold off as a bandage to cover other losses.

So what team actually has at the moment is a halfway decent team, a highly respected coach, a negative cash flow in the 50ish million Euro range and a world class reputation. Of those things, only the cash flow and the name recognition is worth consideration to a potential investor.

But let’s be honest here, the cash flow is the issue. An investor who is the least bit savvy like this guy is supposed to be will take advantage of the situation. The team, and Moratti with it, is losing money perhaps critically. The short term fix is cash. The medium term fix is Champions League level play plus it's 30 million every year. The long term fix is a stadium. None of these fixes come cheap, but an investor has to know after looking at the books that Moratti doesn’t have the nuts to fix it – but also has to know that Moratti desperately wants it to be fixed. In other words, a savvy guy has to know that he’s got Moratti by the short and curlies.

MY DILEMMA

And I mean that literally. There are 2 solutions here that I don’t think I like.

On the one hand, I don’t think that Moratti is the new kind of President that I think we need. We need a businessman who is cognizant of the fact that there is more moolah and good will in the offering for those who can marry the traditions of a club like Inter with the practicality of the modern business world. I don’t think that there are enough smart people like that around, and I don’t know if we would be lucky enough to get one of those people. I certainly don’t know if this new guy is one of those. The future is murky with this one.

On the other hand I have no doubt of Moratti’s passion for the team. I do however have a real concern about his ability to be business enough to make tough choices to keep this ship afloat in the changing times of FFP. And I say this with all due respect to a man who has put more into the team than I can even imagine considering his time in the offices and money spent.

So I don’t know that the new guy will respect the history or the fans and I don’t think that the old guy has the ability to lead the team like it needs to be led in these times.

So which do I hope for? Sterile future or soulful bankruptcy?

FORZA INTER