Sport Republic is an investment firm in the sports and entertainment industry. They have purchased the shareholding of the club held by Mr Gao and will work in partnership with Katharina Liebherr who retains her minority shareholding.
Everyone within the Southampton community would like to wish Mr Gao and his family well for their future.
Martin Semmens, CEO of Southampton Football Club, 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.”
Commenting on the agreement, the Lead Investor of Sport Republic, Dragan 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.”
The Chairman of Sport Republic, Henrik 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.”
About Sport Republic:
Sport Republic is a London-based investment firm in the sports and entertainment industry. Founded by Henrik Kraft and Rasmus Ankersen and backed by Lead Investor Dragan Šolak, Sport Republic’s vision is to apply proprietary intelligence and data analytics to help sports businesses and sports technology companies reach their full potential. More information about Sport Republic can be found on www.sportrepublic.com.
Dragan Šolak is the Lead Investor of Sport Republic. He is also the Founder and Chairman of the Advisory Board of United Group. Under Šolak’s stewardship, United Group has grown from a green field investment in a cable operator in Central Serbia to become a leader in Southeast Europe in telecommunication and media sectors. UG Telecom is delivering broadband, mobile and pay-TV services to a market of more than 40 million people across eight countries. United Group’s media arm, United Media, is a leading media company with five national broadcasters, more than 50 pay TV channels, a very successful digital portfolio of 28 web portals, eight newspapers and magazines and five radio stations, producing in excess of 20,000 hours of original content annually whilst it also operates a global streaming TV service. United Group is dedicated to the production of renewable energy for its own use and for the market and founded an award-winning R&D centre using local talents – United Cloud. Šolak has founded and developed many other companies, his first being the motion picture production and distribution company VANS, which he established in 1990 with a group of friends and movie enthusiasts. Šolak is also a passionate golfer who was deeply involved in the development of golf in the Balkan region and serves as the Chairman of the Board of the international golf group Eligo.
Henrik Kraft is the Chairman and co-founder of Sport Republic and has spent the last 20 years investing in the Technology, Telecoms and Media industry including as an active early-stage investor in sports technology companies such as Tonsser, Sportlight, Wave.tv, Oura Ring, Sava Health and MastersApp. Most recently, Kraft spent 10 years at KKR where he was a Partner and head of the Technology and Telecoms team in Europe, playing leading roles in investments including TDC, Versatel, Visma and United Group. Prior to joining KKR, Kraft worked at Apax Partners for nearly seven years having originally started his career as a strategy consultant with Braxton Associates.
Rasmus Ankersen is the CEO and co-founder of Sport Republic. Over the last seven years he has worked as a football executive. From 2015-2021 he has overseen Brentford FC’s football department as a Co-Director of Football, culminating in winning promotion to the Premier League for the first time in 74 years in May 2020. In the same time period, he has been the Executive Chairman of the Danish club FC Midtjylland and overseen the most successful period in the club’s history, winning three Danish Championships, qualifying for the Champions League group stages in 2020 as well as making the club highly profitable. Ankersen is also the author of several bestselling books on talent development, including The Gold Mine Effect and Hunger in Paradise.