Investment raid on soccer gathers pace

Updated: 2016-08-25 09:07

By ANGUS MCNEICE in London(China Daily)

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Investment raid on soccer gathers pace

Hull City fans celebrate winning the Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England. [Photo/VCG]

China's investment assault on European football has gathered further momentum as a Chinese takeover of Premier League club Hull City appears imminent and multiple investors have lodged inquiries over taking a stake in Liverpool FC.

Following reports of an Everbright approach to Liverpool that values the club at £800 million ($1 billion), news agency Reuters on Monday revealed that Chinese conglomerates Dalian Wanda and Fosun have both lodged "letters of interest" with the current ownership, US-owned Fenway Sports Group.

A senior Liverpool official contacted by China Daily reiterated FSG's denial over any bid for the club, which it said was not for sale.

The owners would however consider selling a minority stake in Liverpool, similar to Chinese consortium China Media Capital's $400 million purchase of a 13 percent share in City Football Group that controls Manchester City, the official added.

"It seems that there is a willingness inside the club to sell some or all of Liverpool to the Chinese investors," Salford University professor of sports enterprise Simon Chadwick told China Daily.

"I also sense that Liverpool's owners are likely to be playing hardball. There has been ongoing and competing Chinese interest in Liverpool for several months. My feeling is that the owners will be using this to push-up the price of either an equity stake or the final sale price."

Meanwhile, it appeared the sale of Hull City to siblings Dai Yongge and Dai Xinli is imminent. The pair recently registered a new UK-based company-Rehne Goldenway Sports Management Ltd-at London's Companies House, according to the Hull Daily Mail.

Should current owner Assem Allam go ahead with the sale, ownership of the club would likely be transferred to this new firm, analysts have said.

The brother and sister duo are both registered as directors of the company, along with a third individual, Hao Tang.

The Dai family made its fortune in the 1990s by converting old bomb shelters into underground malls. Their company, Rehne Commercial Holdings, owns shopping centers in dozens of cities around China. Dai Xin Li has appeared on magazine Forbes' billionaire list, and is currently estimated to be worth around £700 million having handed over a 48 percent stake in the business-worth £246 million-to her brother in 2014.

Dai Xinli was at one time married to British maths teacher Tony Hawken, and she owns a home in London. She and her brother were pictured at the KCOM Stadium for Hull's season opener on August 13, and it is said she developed a love of football while taking her son to Premier League matches. The Dais also own the Chinese club Beijing Renhe.

"We don't know much about the Chinese investors, but we are quite hopeful and optimistic about (the sale) because of the controversy around the current owners-they are deeply unpopular, so everyone is hoping this takeover goes through," said Hull City Supports Trust vice-chairman Ryan Richardson.