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Shakeup coming for Inter Milan ownership?

Reports suggest Erick Thohir may be on the way out.

FC Internazionale v Pescara Calcio - Serie A
FC Internazionale President Erick Thohir greets the fans before the Serie A match between FC Internazionale and Pescara Calcio at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 28, 2017 in Milan, Italy.
Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

If the latest news is true, Inter Milan minority owner Erick Thohir may be on the way out of the San Siro.

Il Sole 24 Ore is reporting that Suning Group owner and Inter majority shareholder Jindong Zhang is looking for a way to buy out Thohir’s remaining 30 percent of Inter. The move would leave Suning Group is pretty much full control of the team with the exception of a few minor shareholders.

FC Internazionale v AS Roma - Serie A
Chairman of Suning holdings group Zhang Jindong attends the Serie A match between FC Internazionale and AS Roma at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on February 26, 2017 in Milan, Italy.
Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Reports suggest Thohir’s shares of Inter are worth in the neighborhood of €150-€200 million, however Suning is limited by the Chinese government on how much money he can spend outside of China.

One way around that is to offer Thohir shares of the Suning Group in exchange for his Inter shares which Thohir could, in turn, sell off for cash.

Thohir became a part owner of Inter Milan after buying Massimo Moratti’s shares of the team in 2016.

The question becomes just why Suning want to muscle Thohir out of Inter?

Perhaps the larger question is why does Thohir want out? On Tuesday, Calciomercato.com reported that Thohir was shopping his shares around to anyone willing to buy, meaning it is he looking for a road out of Milan, not Suning wanting to buy him out forcibly.

While Thohir does hold the title of president of Inter Milan, his role with the club is anything but presidential. In fact, Inter’s Italian management has traditionally had to travel to China to discuss personnel moves with Suning Group management rather than have Thohir make any decisions in Milan.

It could be that Thohir is dissatisfied with his role with the club and is looking for a way to cut his ties and move on.

As pressure continues in Milan for the Nerazzurri to meet its Financial Fair Play obligations, the strain of that may be too much for Thohir to bear, especially considering how the team struggles to make a profit.

If Suning were to buy out Thohir or if Thohir finds another buyer for his shares it would likely have little impact on operations of the team. One positive could be if the team could find Italian investors to help provide local input for the operations of the squad. However, with an asking price of €150 million minimum, that could be a tough hill to climb for any potential local investor in a country still struggling with unemployment issues.

The likely scenario here is that Suning will complete a buyout and take a more complete control of the team, which isn’t all bad. It just means that all team decisions will likely run through China unless ownership installs a strong local leader and provides the ability for that leader to make important day-to-day decisions.

However, there is no indication that Suning would surrender that kind of control.


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