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Six students in the Wharton MBA Program for Executives purchased the professional Italian basketball team Pallacanestro Trieste (Photo from Penn Today).

Cotogna Sports Group, an investment group founded by six Wharton MBA students, recently purchased the professional Italian basketball team Pallacanestro Trieste.

Prab Sekhon, Fitzann Reid, Richard Johnson, Richard de Meo, John Jefferies, and Connor Barwin are all second-year students in the Wharton MBA Program for Executives. They founded CSG in 2022 to invest in sports franchises. The purchase of the Italian basketball team marks CSG's first acquisition. 

CSG brings together students with diverse skills and experiences, including lawyers, doctors, and former professional athletes. 

De Meo, the founder and CEO of London-based financial service firm Foenix Partners, said that none of the members knew each other before starting at Wharton. 

“The courses gave us common ground and established a shared interest,” de Meo told The Daily Pennsylvanian. 

He also added that the Wharton MBA Program for Executives, a two-year curriculum designed for professionals who are already working full-time, empowers students to build momentum for projects. 

The idea of acquiring a team in Italy began when some of the group members took a sports management course taught by Robert DiGisi. DiGisi noticed their interest in sports acquisition and connected them with industry contacts in Italy. 

De Meo then traveled to Trieste, the hometown of Pallacanestro Trieste, to speak to the team about a potential deal. 

“The power of the alumni network is real,” de Meo said. “It can feel daunting and difficult to know where to start, but there is incredible openness for people to have conversations, to try and support people across the Penn community.”

In addition to DiGisi's support, de Meo stated that Gus Gooney's negotiations course taught him skills that he was able to utilize in discussions with the previous owners of the Italian team.  

“We really feel a significant debt to the broader Penn community,” de Meo said.

Sekhon, an energy strategist and CleanTech investor at NextEra Energy Resources, said that the six group members are “intimately involved” in the operations of the basketball team. They are focusing on establishing operational excellence, fiscal discipline, and new revenue streams. 

According to Sekhon, CSG is also interested in accumulating sports teams in Europe and North America. The group is currently evaluating the women’s sports market, particularly soccer. 

Sekhon credited the successful acquisition to the diverse and complementary skill set of its members. 

“Penn brings people with a similar mindset together,” he said. “The biggest value has been the people you meet and the connections you make to build the right team to achieve your goal.”