Football is the next big thing for hedge funds and private equity

When AC Milan host Atletico de Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday evening, it will be a clash between Italy's most successful team in Europe's elite soccer competition and last year's Spanish title winner. For the financial world, it's also a matchup between a hedge fund based in New York and a credit fund headquartered in Los Angeles.

Swedish football player Zlatan Ibrahimović plays for AC Milan | Photo: Daniele Mascolo/REUTERS / X06623

Elliott Management Corp. took control of AC Milan in 2018 after Chinese owner Li Yonghong defaulted on debt obligations. Funds managed by Ares Management Corporation acquired a 34 percent stake in LaLiga champion Atletico in June.

They are two of the alternative investment firms awash with cash that have been gradually gaining a foothold in the world's most popular sport. After billionaire soccer fans, petrodollars from the Middle East and a spate of Chinese purchases over the past two decades, private equity, credit vehicles and hedge funds now represent the latest wave of investors.

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