Southampton announced on Tuesday that a takeover has been completed by sports and entertainment investment firm Sport Republic, with the club’s controlling stake purchased from Gao Jisheng.
Sport Republic is a London-based investment firm founded by Henrik Kraft and Rasmus Ankersen, former co-director of football at Brentford (2015-2021), and backed by lead investor Dragan Solak, chairman and founder of the United Group media company.
Ankersen, who played a pivotal role in building the structure which is currently in place (in the Premier League) at Brentford over a number of years, will serve as the head of football operations for Southampton and Sport Republic, with the potential to purchase and operate additional clubs in other countries — a la City Football Group and Red Bull. Following the takeover, Solak has said that Southampton will be the “cornerstone” of the organization.
Southampton CEO Martin Semmens has spoken about the lengthy process by which the controlling stake (80 percent) was sold and why it was vitally important to find “the right partner” — from the club’s official statement:
“Over the last two years, together with the shareholders of our club, we have searched for the right partner to take the club forward. Today, we have found the perfect solution for our club.
“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.
“Today, we welcome a new beginning with a new ownership group. We have found partners with ambition for the future, but with a clear understanding of what Southampton stands for and the direction we must go in now. The strategy is to push forward with the plans we have had in place over the last two years, but with their support we can now do this with a renewed focus and speed. Continuity, stability, and clarity of the way forward are equally as important as the new initiatives and ideas we can now bring to the club.
“Sport Republic is being built to provide a network of people, clubs, and technology that allows the clubs within it to grow every day and gain the advantages you need to be successful. As a club, we have never wanted to buy success, but to earn it. Sport Republic gives us the power to improve our operations at every level, helping us to reach for the success our staff work so hard for, and our fans crave.
“Everyone at Southampton welcomes Dragan, Henrik, Rasmus and the people within Sport Republic to our great club. We 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. We can’t wait to get started and be part of the future of Sport Republic.”
Southampton takeover: Good news for Saints fans
The arrival of Sport Republic is likely to mean increased investment in Southampton — at all levels of the club, from the backroom staff and facilities, to the players in the first-team squad. Funds have been hard to come by in recent years at St. Mary’s Stadium, with the Chinese government reversing course on foreign sport investment less than a month after Gao purchased the club in 2017.
Southampton will still likely look to exploit market inefficiencies and make cheap signings to eventually sell on for profits — as the club did so brilliantly from 2013-2017 — once again, but only after they’ve starred for and helped lift Saints away from the bottom of the Premier League table.