Over the years, there has been increasing interest from Chinese businessmen in acquiring stakes in European sporting outfits. Recently a handful of football clubs around the European continent have changed ownership, with Chinese conglomerates buying, and controlling shares of these teams.
Here are five European football clubs owned by Chinese businessmen.
1. Inter Milan
Serie A giants Inter were formerly owned by Italian businessman Massimo Moratti. In the early 2010s, Moratti began selling controlling stock of the Nerazzurri. First, a minority interest was sold to a Chinese consortium led by Kenneth Huang. Later in 2013, an Indonesian consortium led by Erick Thohir bought over the 70% controlling share of the club. This was in turn sold to Chinese company Suning Holdings Group, owned by Zhang Jindong, which have remained owner ever since. On 26 October 2018, Steven Zhang, the son of Chinese billionaire Zhang Jindong, and founder and chairman of the Suning Holdings Group, was appointed as new president of Inter Milan.
2. Wolverhampton Wanderers FC
The English club side used to be owned by Steve Morgan, the head of Bridgemere group. In July of 2016, it was confirmed that Chinese business outfit Fosun International had bought over the club for a reported £45 million fee. The chairman of Fosun Group is Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang. This takeover led to a positive change in the club’s fortunes as a few seasons later, they won the English Championship division, gaining automatic promotion to the English Premier League, where they have continued to improve year by year.
3. West Bromwich Albion FC
West Brom is an English Championship side currently owned by a Chinese investment group led by Lai Guochuan, who bought the club from long-term owner Jeremy Peace. The reported figure for the deal is believed to have been £200 million. The clubs’ fortunes have been mixed since the takeover, with them getting promoted and relegated from the EPL almost immediately. They are hoping for a quick return to the Premier League very soon. Club owner, Lai Guochuan appointed his associate Li Piyue as the chairman of the West Brom.
4. Birmingham City FC
Birmingham City FC is owned by Birmingham Sports Holdings. It is an investment holding company owned by Chinese businessman Paul Suen through his investment company Trillion Trophy Asia. In 2015, receivers Ernst & Young who controlled of Birmingham City, gave Suen a two-year exclusivity period to takeover the club. The takeover was completed in October 2016. Trillion Trophy Asia acquired 50.64 per cent of Birmingham International Holdings becoming the largest shareholder. However, they now own 75% of Birmingham City.
Birmingham gained promotion to the EPL and finishing 9th the following season. The best they have ever achieved. The Blues followed this up in 2011 with an unlikely League Cup triumph beating favorites Arsenal 2-1 in the final. Unfortunately, that was only a bright spark in a poor season as they were later relegated from the EPL in that campaign and have struggled to get back since then.
5. Reading FC
Chinese siblings Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Lu in 2017 bought 75% of the controlling shares of Reading FC through their company Rehne Commercial Holdings Company Limited. The takeover was finalized in July 2017 after lengthy negotiations which began seven months earlier.