Rocco Commisso, Cosmos Owner, Is Said to Be Close to Buying Italy’s Fiorentina

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Rocco B. Commisso, the billionaire founder and chairman of the cable provider Mediacom, is expected to complete a deal to purchase the Italian soccer club A.C.F. Fiorentina in the coming days.

Commisso, who was born in Italy but moved to the United States when he was 12, is also the chairman of the New York Cosmos, and has been investigating the possibility of buying an Italian team for some time. He was left frustrated last year after failing in a takeover bid for A.C. Milan, a European soccer heavyweight that had fallen into a financial crisis.

Should a deal for Fiorentina go through, Commisso would join a growing list of American owners in Italian soccer: Milan is now owned by the Elliott Management hedge fund, A.S. Roma is backed by the billionaire James Pallotta, and there are North American-linked ownership groups at Bologna, in Serie A, and Venezia, in Serie B.

Commisso, 69, has appointed JPMorgan Chase to work on the deal for Fiorentina, and has held discussions in recent weeks with representatives of the Della Valle family, which has overseen Fiorentina — which is 15th in Serie A with one weekend of games remaining — since 2002. The two parties agreed to terms of a sale, for a sum of around $150 million, late last week, and the deal could go through as soon as Monday, according to people familiar with the discussions who requested anonymity because the deal had not yet been completed.

Representatives for Commisso and for Fiorentina declined to comment.

The move may lead to renewed focus on Commisso’s other soccer interests. He took over ownership of the Cosmos in 2017, saving both the club and its league, the North American Soccer League, from liquidation. The N.A.S.L. folded a year later, though, and the Cosmos have been without a league since — though the club is involved in an effort to form a new league to begin play in 2020.

Commisso has spent heavily on a federal antitrust lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, accusing the governing body of anticompetitive practices designed to favor Major League Soccer, the top-tier American league that shares a commercial marketing operation with U.S. Soccer.

His pursuit of Fiorentina will not have any material effect on the lawsuit or his interest in the Cosmos, according to a person familiar with the matter. Commisso was present Thursday as his team hosted Germany’s F.C. St. Pauli in an exhibition game at Columbia University’s soccer field, which is named for Commisso.

The Cosmos are a team rich in history — the previous iteration of the team brought stars like Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer to play in the United States in the 1970s — but one with a muddled future in professional soccer. Control of Fiorentina would allow Commisso to fulfill his ambition to work in top-level competitive soccer.

Diego Della Valle, Fiorentina’s majority owner, who also runs the shoemaker Tod’s, has been seeking an exit route from the club for at least a year; reports in Italy have linked the club to potential investors from Qatar. Though he has invested significant sums into Fiorentina over the last 17 years — the club had been declared bankrupt when he first became involved — his popularity among supporters has waned in recent years. He wrote an open letter to fans in March, accusing the club’s supporters groups of creating an atmosphere that “destabilized the team and the club itself.” He called it an “absurd situation,” and one he “would no longer accept.”

Credit: Rocco Commisso, Cosmos Owner, Is Said to Be Close to Buying Italy’s Fiorentina