Swedish football icon Zlatan Ibrahimović is making his third return to AC Milan, this time not as a player but as an adviser to the team’s owners and an operating partner for RedBird, the US private equity firm overseeing the Serie A club. In this role, Ibrahimović will utilize his vast social media following of 123 million to enhance the club’s international brand.
The former center-forward, who retired in June, will be advising AC Milan’s management and ownership, which includes the New York Yankees and Main Street Advisors, a fund with notable investors like LeBron James and Drake. Collaborating closely with Gerry Cardinale, the founder of RedBird, Ibrahimović aims to contribute to the growth of the investment firm’s sports, media, and entertainment portfolio while identifying new opportunities.
Ibrahimović chose RedBird based on its track record of collaborating with athletes and celebrities seeking success in business. RedBird, managing around $10 billion, has stakes in various entities, including Liverpool FC owner Fenway Sports Group and the Alpine Formula One car racing team.
Cardinale, who acquired AC Milan for €1.2 billion about 18 months ago, envisions the club as a “sleeping giant” that can transform into a diversified sports, media, entertainment, and cultural powerhouse. AC Milan recently returned to profitability, driven partly by its brand’s growth in the Middle East and Asia.
Ibrahimović’s advisory role extends to assisting AC Milan’s manager Stefano Pioli and supporting chief executive Giorgio Furlani in expanding the club’s global brand. The move exemplifies the growing influence of athlete investors leveraging their fame for business deals during and after their playing careers.
This trend includes figures like Serena Williams, Sir Lewis Hamilton, and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who have ventured into various business endeavors. The convergence of sports and business underscores the evolving landscape where athletes are increasingly involved in investment opportunities, capitalizing on their popularity and wealth.