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Owner of Raptors and Maple Leafs in talks to seal buying French soccer club Saint-Étienne

SAINT-ETIENNE, France — Storied French soccer club Saint-Étienne said on Monday it was in exclusive talks for a sale to the owner of the Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs.

The full purchase of the 1976 European Cup finalist by Larry Tanenbaum’s Kilmer Group should be ratified within weeks, the club said in a statement four days before a key end-of-season game in its push to be promoted back to the top tier.

“I know what Saint-Étienne represents for its community and for French ,” Tanenbaum said in the statement, calling the club from central France “the beating heart of a city and its region.”

Saint-Étienne is a 10-time champion of France, though not since 1981, when its star player was French great Michel Platini. Its 41,000-seat stadium is one of the venues for the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments at the Paris Olympics.

The pending deal was announced as Saint-Etienne prepares to end the second-tier regular season needing to win at Quevilly on Friday to stay in contention for a runner-up finish.

Saint-Étienne, which was relegated two years ago, is assured of at least a third-place finish and entry into a promotion playoffs bracket involving four teams.

The club said it wanted to “ensure an ambitious future” with a new owner that was “trusted, experienced and financially solid.”

Tanenbaum is the chairman and CEO of Kilmer Group and chairman of the board for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the NBA’s Raptors and NHL’s Maple Leafs. Kilmer also is reportedly being awarded a franchise in Toronto for a WNBA team.

Saint-Étienne said the deal was being negotiated for Kilmer by Ivan Gazidis, the former CEO of Arsenal and Inter Milan.


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