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Troubled Juventus turns to accountant as Andrea Agnelli era ends

Serie A - Torino v Juventus

By Elvira Pollina and Giulio Piovaccari

MILAN (Reuters) -The Agnelli family has proposed accountant Gianluca Ferrero as the new chairman of Juventus, marking the end of the long reign of Andrea Agnelli as the Italian soccer club tries to get to grips with its financial and legal troubles.

The move by the Agnellis' holding company Exor comes after Juventus' board resigned, and as prosecutors and Italian market regulator Consob look into the Serie A club over alleged irregularities linked to player transfers and wages.

Announcing the board's resignation late on Monday, Juventus - which denies any wrongdoing - said a revamp was "in the best interest of the company".

It added directors had concluded that current issues would be best addressed by a new board, given "the pending legal, technical and accounting matters", and it would have to restate its financial statements for the fiscal year ending June 2022.

Juventus' shares fell as much as 10.4% at Tuesday's open, but they recovered to end down 1%.

Andrea Agnelli, who has chaired Juventus since 2010, was one of the architects of the failed attempt to set up a breakaway European Super League together with other top clubs last year.

Under his tenure, Juventus secured nine consecutive national titles, but failed to win Europe's prestigious Champions League.

After the first trophyless season for a decade last year, Juventus were knocked out of Europe's top club competition at the group stages this year and are currently third in Serie A.

The loss-making club has also been hit by rising costs linked to players' salaries and the coronavirus pandemic, and has been forced to ask shareholders for a total of 700 million euros ($723 million) in cash injections in three years.

On Tuesday, Spain's LaLiga demanded "immediate" sports sanctions be applied on Juventus for allegedly breaching European soccer's financial fair play rules. Juventus had no immediate comment.

LAWYERS AND GOVERNANCE EXPERTS

Exor, which owns about 64% of Juventus shares and controls about 78% of voting rights, said it would propose Ferrero as chairman at a shareholder meeting the club has called for Jan. 18 to appoint a new board.

It will also present its full slate of candidates for the new board, it added.

Juventus has appointed Maurizio Scanavino, CEO of privately-held media group GEDI which is also owned by Exor, as general manager, while CEO Maurizio Arrivabene will keep his position on a temporary basis.

Exor's head John Elkann said on Tuesday candidates for the new board would be picked from lawyers and corporate governance experts to help the club address legal challenges.

He praised his cousin Andrea for his tenure at Juventus, saying the club reached "memorable goals under his leadership", and confirmed Massimiliano Allegri as coach.

Two sources familiar with the matter said Andrea Agnelli's decision to step back was taken in agreement with Elkann.

In a letter to Juventus staff seen by Reuters, Andrea Agnelli described the club's situation as "delicate".

"When the team is not cohesive it becomes vulnerable and that can be fatal," he wrote. "This is when you need to keep calm and contain damages ... Better to quit all together, giving the chance to a new team to turn the game around."

On Tuesday, Ferrari, also controlled by the Agnellis, accepted the resignation of its Formula One team boss Mattia Binotto in another reshuffle at Exor's sporting assets.

($1 = 0.9680 euros)

(Writing by Giulio Piovaccari and Elvira Pollina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Mark Potter)