Italy’s Serie B side Ascoli Calcio has added its name to the list of Italian clubs with North American ownership, as New York-based family office holding company North Sixth Group, LLC acquired a 31% stake in the club last week.
North Sixth Group chairman Matt Rizzetta has revealed some of the details of the new partnership with Massimo Pulcinelli, Ascoli Calcio’s majority shareholder since 2018 through his holding company Ferinvest Italia S.R.L. and CEO of Bricofer Group S.p.A., one of Italy’s largest retail chains for do-it-yourself and home goods.
The deal between North Sixth Group and Ascoli Calcio is a confirmation of the American investors’ growing interest in the Italian soccer market that has been observed over recent years.
The Ascoli Calcio-North Sixth Group Deal
“The purchase values Ascoli at approximately €20 million ($23.7 million), with additional premium payments in the event that the club gets promoted to Serie A,” Rizzetta told me.
The transaction assigns North Sixth Group a 31% minority stake in Ascoli Calcio and entitles it to two seats on the club’s board of directors. The percentage of shares, however, might increase significantly by the end of the 2021-22 Serie B season.
“We purchased an initial 31% interest with options to 51% which we can elect by the end of the season,” continues Rizzetta.
Regardless of the amount of shares, Rizzetta explains that his priority is to always work hand in hand with the Pulcinelli family, for whom he expressed great admiration in the way they have been handling business both at the club and at Bricofer.
“I have immense respect for Massimo [Pulcinelli] and his family, who built a €500 million empire in the retail sector from nothing,” says Rizzetta. “The most important thing is that we have a partnership and a co-ownership structure alongside the Pulcinelli family, and this will not change regardless of who holds the most shares in the club.”
Rizzetta added that a few other American investors have joined North Sixth Group in supporting the Ascoli Calcio project. He mentioned NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end and Super Bowl LV winner Ndamukong Suh, former Univision Communications CEO Vince Sadusky, venture capital firm Wavemaker Partners and Los Angeles-based investment company KM Sports Ventures.
Growing The Ascoli Brand Outside Of Italy
Ascoli Calcio, which is based in the Marche region in the central-eastern part of the Italian peninsula, is a club that boasts over 120 years of history in Italian soccer. For North Sixth Group, Ascoli’s tradition and glorious past represents a unique story that needs to be told to the many sports fans around the world.
“We want to preserve the tradition of Ascoli and introduce fans in the international market who might not be as familiar with the club to the beauty, tradition and heritage of Ascoli,” says Rizzetta.
His desire to reach the global soccer audience is visible in the substantial investment plan that North Sixth Group has laid out to grow the Ascoli Calcio brand in the U.S.
“We are investing considerable dollars in the North American market, well over $3 million between resources from our NSG family of companies and key growth initiatives such as content, marketing and the opening of Ascoli Club NYC and a youth academy in the future.”
North Sixth Group’s decision to invest in Ascoli Calcio is the result of a long search. Rizzetta admits that he had been looking to join forces with someone that would share a similar vision of globalizing the soccer club by developing an international strategy that could open new revenue streams outside of Italy.
In this sense, Rizzetta is grateful to the Pulcinelli family for having built a solid financial foundation at Ascoli Calcio, because it allows North Sixth Group and the other American investors to channel their energy toward gradually growing the club rather than having to lay the groundwork.
“This was very unique and appealing to us, as it enables us to bring in new skills, new networks and open up new markets without having to recreate the infrastructure,” Rizzetta explains.
At a time when U.S. investment is looking increasingly more at the Italian soccer landscape, Rizzetta believes that Ascoli Calcio has in its management the right blend of skill sets to be successful on the pitch while operating in an innovative way in the international market.
At the heart of the partnership between North Sixth Group and the Pulcinelli family, Rizzetta continues, is a shared passion and vision for the future of Ascoli Calcio, which together they hope to bring back to its glorious Serie A days.
North American Investment In Italian Soccer
Across Italy’s three professional soccer leagues, the tally of clubs with significant interest from North American owners has risen from zero to 10 in the span of a decade, with one of them being a Canadian investor and the remaining nine hailing from the U.S.
Six of these 10 clubs with North American ownership currently compete in Serie A (AC Milan, Bologna, Fiorentina, Roma, Spezia and Venezia), two of them feature in Serie B (Ascoli Calcio and Parma) and another two are in Serie C (Catania and Campobasso, of which North Sixth Group has been an owner since last December).
“I believe that in the U.S. there is a much wider vision of Italian soccer,” Pulcinelli said when I asked him about the changing landscape of Italy’s professional soccer leagues. “The investments that they (North American investors) are making have great potential and value because they will be valorized in the future. Obviously, it is always essential to bring home the result!”
According to a recent report by Gazzetta dello Sport, Genoa’s president Enrico Preziosi is about to sell the Grifone to Miami-based private investment firm 777 Partners. This would bring to seven the number of Serie A clubs with North American ownership, which represents more than a third of the teams competing in Italy’s top-flight of soccer.