Chinese consortium eyes Leeds United

Updated: 2016-07-29 08:04

By Andrew Moody(China Daily Europe)

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Chinese consortium eyes Leeds United

Pre-season Friendly between Peterborough United and Leeds United , July 23, 2016. [Photo/IC]

A Chinese consortium could be set to launch a bid for Leeds United, one of the Britain's top football clubs.

The offer, which is likely to include an injection of working capital, could involve a payment for the Championship club of more than 100 million pounds ($132 million; 119 million euros).

The move follows Chinese conglomerate Fosun's acquisition of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tony Xia's Recon Group's purchase of Aston Villa.

The consortium is believed to consist of leading but as yet unnamed Chinese entrepreneurs as well as a private equity group.

It has been put together by Steve Tappin, the chief executive officer and founder of Xinfu, the consultancy, who has been holding talks in Beijing.

Tappin, who is also presenter of The CEO Guru series on BBC World, declined to comment on the precise details of the potential offer.

"I have had a series of meetings with related parties all this week and there is definite interest in buying Leeds but I want to ensure it would be with long-term investment, significant working capital and the right governance so it can be a stable platform for sustainable Premier League success," he says.

"Leeds United is a big club with a very strong fan base and huge potential for investors, particularly if it can be returned to the Premiership."

Leeds United, which finished 13th in the Championship last season, is currently owned by Italian businessman Massimo Cellino, whose family trust controls 81.58 percent of the club.

He bought the club in April 2014 but has had a difficult period in charge, even agreeing to sell the club to its fans last year before calling off the deal.

He told The Times in May that he would sell if he got the right offer.

"If somebody doesn't come in then I have no choice but to run it. A lot of people have called me, but they are just fishing. I don't see the money."

The consortium could make its move before the closing of transfer window on Aug 31.

The club, which is the only one in the UK's sixth biggest city, is likely to have a value of between 50 and 60 million pounds but would also need an injection of working capital from then new owners of a similar amount.

The club, which was one of England's top football sides in its so-called glory days of the 1970s and again in the 1990s, was ranked as the fourth richest football club in the world by Deloitte in 2000.

Tappin, who is the author of Secrets of Chinese CEOs and presented a BBC documentary on the China Entrepreneur Club, whose members include some of China's top companies, comes from Harrogate in North Yorkshire and is a lifelong Leeds United fan.

"There is huge potential for Chinese investors. Leeds is a sleeping giant. The brand valuations of Manchester United, Manchester City and Barcelona run into billions of dollars and not long ago Leeds used to be up among them," he says.

(China Daily European Weekly 07/29/2016 page24)