With the Zhang family seemingly unable to repay a debt to Oaktree Capital Management, the American firm can take over the club from May 20, reproducing the same scenario that saw Elliott take control of Milan in 2018, even if there’s a key difference.

Today, Sunday, May 19, 2024, could be the final full day of the Suning era at Inter.

President Zhang is due to repay a €395m loan to Oaktree Capital Management by tomorrow, but he does not seem in a condition to meet the deadline. If this is the case, the American firm will take control of the club from the end of May 20.

Zhang had been in talks with Pimco to get a new loan, but negotiations fell apart. The Nerazzurri president said in an official statement on Saturday that he’d been making “every attempt with our partner [Oaktree] to find an amicable resolution”, but, at this stage, the end of the Suning era at Inter seems inevitable.

Even CEO Beppe Marotta, who is usually very measured, described Saturday as a ‘terrible’ day financially and didn’t attend an event in Noli because of the club’s crisis.

Inter fans are experiencing precisely the same situation as their ‘cousins’ – city rivals Milan – six years ago.

Zhang not quite like Yonghong Li

Back in 2016, Li Yonghong, a completely unknown Chinese entrepreneur, bought the Rossoneri from Silvio Berlusconi-owned Fininvest.

However, to complete the deal, he obtained a loan from Elliott Investment Management, which, after years of struggles, he was unable to repay. Therefore, the American firm took over in the summer of 2018, and this is exactly what will happen to Inter tomorrow if Zhang fails to repay the debt.

There is a key difference between the two stories, and it does not concern the length or success of the Suning ownership at Inter compared to Li Yonghong on the other side of San Siro.

As explained by Il Giornale—via l’Interista—Suning would not lose Inter’s control for nothing. In fact, in order to take over, Oaktree must pay the difference between the club’s market value and the sum Zhang was unable to repay. This means Oaktree will have to pay circa €500m to take control of Inter if the club’s transfer value is estimated at around €900m.

Li Yonghong, on the other hand, lost control of Milan for nothing, while Elliott sold the club to RedBird in 2022.

What Oaktree will decide about Inter, so whether to keep control or sell to the highest bidder straight away, remains to be seen.

The Marotta factor

There is also another important difference, as Inter already have a management structure in place that was operating largely independently of Suning and President Steven Zhang.

CEO Beppe Marotta is to all intents and purposes running the club and for several years has been slicing into the record losses, operating a transfer budget balanced entirely by player sales and sealing free transfers.

He has already lined up two players for next season, Piotr Zielinski and Medhi Taremi, who are out of contract at Napoli and FC Porto respectively.

If Oaktree do want to wait until finding a buyer and keep building value at Inter, then Marotta is the right man to do it for them.

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