A German soccer club has elected an Abu Dhabi-based Jordanian businessman as its chairman, making him the first Arab to take the helm of one of the country’s teams.
Hasan Abdullah Mohamed Ismaik, a real estate and construction magnate, was elected by financially troubled second division TSV 1860 Munich after he invested $25.8 million investment in the club.
Mr. Ismaik’s investment bought him a 60 percent stake in the club, eleven per cent of which is non-voting stock. The acquisition brought 1860 Munich, burdened with a $27 million in debt, back from the brink of bankruptcy.
In a statement, Mr. Ismaik said that he felt “honored to be chairman of the supervisory board of TSV 1860, a club not only with a great tradition and identity, but also with a truly outstanding and passionate fan base.”
Mr. Ismaik hopes to return 1860 Munich to Germany’s premier league, the Bundesliga, from which it was relegated in 2004 by investing €20 million. He has agreed to pay €5 million of the club’s debt provided that creditors agree to waive some of the debt.
Mr. Ismaik said that he would “do everything to support the club and its management to make 1860 profitable again this season. We want to improve and elevate our game constantly, and clearly aim to successfully compete on the international level within a few years.”
The businessman made his acquisition through Marya, his Abu Dhabi investment vehicle, which has stakes in sports, design, construction, real estate, automotive, travel and, energy.
The acquisition of 1860 Munich is the second takeover in recent weeks of a European soccer club by businessmen in the UAE. Dubai-based Royal Emirates Group recently bought Spanish La Liga club Getafe FC for an estimated €90 million.
1860 Munich, a founding member of the Bundesliga, won the German championship but was overshadowed after that by its rival in the Bavarian capital, Bayern Munich.
The club was relegated in 2004 from the Bundesliga to the second division.
Mr. Ismaik sees the acquisition as a stepping stone to further takeovers in Germany. He is believed to be looking at establishing a €200 million fund for investments in Germany.
(James M. Dorsey, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer)