United Group founder Šolak’s Sport Republic acquires Southampton FC, aims to build global sports portfolio

United Group founder Dragan Šolak has emerged as the lead investor in Sport Republic, a new outfit that has acquired English Premier League club Southampton FC as the first step in building an international portfolio of clubs.

Sport Republic has acquired the 80% controlling stake in Southampton held by Chinese businessman Gao Jisheng. Former owner Markus Liebherr’s daughter Katharina retains a minority stake.

Šolak is the main backer of a company that that describes itself as an investment firm in the sports and entertainment industry.

Co-founder and chairman Henrik Kraft spent 10 years at private equity outfit KKR, where he was involved in investments in companies including Denmark’s TDC and Šolak’s United Group, which is now owned by private equity outfit BC Partners. United Group, to which Šolak remains attached as an advisor, holds the rights to English Premier League football in key territories in South-East Europe.

“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. Southampton has so many of the qualities we have been looking for in a major sports organisation,” said Šolak.

“It has a great management team, excellent talent development, talented teams playing attractive football and a dedicated fan base. We are delighted to be able to complete this acquisition as a first step towards execution of our investment strategy. Southampton will be a corner stone of the organisation we plan to build.”

That organisation is built around the idea that sports businesses can be transformed by the application of proprietary data intelligence and analytics.

“Whilst Southampton is Sport Republic’s first acquisition, we expect more investments to follow over the coming years. Our ambition is to build a portfolio of high influence stakes in football clubs and other sporting assets across the world,” said Kraft.

“At the same time we will also invest in early-stage sports technology companies and use our portfolio to accelerate the development of these companies. The acquisition of Southampton is a great first step and we are very excited about the journey ahead.”

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