Ankersen leads Southampton takeover by Sport Republic

Ankersen was Co-Director of Football at Brentford until December

Ankersen was Co-Director of Football at Brentford until December

FORMER Brentford Co-Director of Football Rasmus Ankersen is one of the men behind Sport Republic’s takeover of Southampton.

It was announced today that the London-based investment firm had acquired Gao Jisheng’s 80% stake in the Premier League club. Ankersen left Brentford in December after six-and-a-half years to co-found Sport Republic along with his fellow Dane Henrik Kraft.

The company’s lead investor is Serb Dragan Šolak, who owns five national broadcasters, more than 50 pay TV channels, 28 web portals, eight newspapers and magazines and five radio stations in south-eastern Europe through his company United Group.

Sport Republic’s stated aim is “to apply proprietary intelligence and data analytics to help sports businesses and sports technology companies reach their full potential.”

Chairman and co-founder Kraft was an early-stage investor in sports technology companies Tonsser, Sportlight, Wave.tv, Oura Ring, Sava Health and MastersApp.

Most recently, he spent 10 years at KKR as Partner and head of the Technology and Telecoms team in Europe, playing leading roles in investments including TDC, Versatel, Visma and United Group.

Sport Republic CEO Ankersen was Co-Director of Football at Brenford from 2015 to 2021 and Executive Chairman of their sister club FC Midtjylland from 2014. Katharina Liebherr has retained her 20% minority shareholding in Southampton.

In an interview with The Athletic, Southampton CEO Martin Semmens said Ankersen and Kraft would not be involved day-to-day at the club.

“The checks and balances will probably change,” he admitted. “However, I once sat for three-and-a-half hours with Rasmus, and he didn’t say a single word I disagreed with.

“They have the same ideas we have. I have the autonomy to run the club, but they will have an input on strategy. They don’t want to be influencing decisions on a day-to-day basis; we will build a plan together, and then they want us to go and execute the plan.”

WHAT THEY SAID

Šolak said: “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. 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 cornerstone of the organisation we plan to build.”

Kraft added: “We will be an active and engaged owner, but we will not be starting any revolutions. We were attracted to Southampton because it is already a well-run club that follows a clearly defined strategy.

“Southampton’s CEO Martin Semmens will continue to run the day-to-day operations of the club, and Sport Republic will be working closely with him and his team to help the club grow.

“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.

“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.”

Southampton CEO Martin Semmens said: “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.”

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