By Rob Harris ,AP
LONDON — Manchester City announced Tuesday that a mainland Chinese consortium is investing US$400 million to buy 13 percent of the Premier League club’s umbrella organization in a deal that values the business at US$3 billion.
Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan bought City in 2008 for around US$400 million and since then the club has expanded to create the City Football Group that includes teams in New York, Melbourne and Yokohama.
China Media Capital Holdings (CMC) and CITIC Capital are investing in the group after six months of talks and the deal remains subject to regulatory approval in some countries, City said.
City’s injection of funding comes after mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited the club during a four-day state visit to Britain in October. During Xi’s visit, former City defender Sun Jihai, who made 130 appearances for the club between 2002 and 2008, was inducted to the Manchester-based National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame. He was also appointed a club ambassador in China in September.
Though long overshadowed in Manchester by the more illustrious United, City’s value as a business is now closer to its neighbor following the Chinese investment. United, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, is currently valued at US$3.05 billion
“Our belief is that we now have an unrivalled platform to grow CFG, our clubs and companies both in China and internationally, and we will be working hard with our new partners to realize the potential that this deal creates,” City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said.
CMC Chairman Ruigang Li said the consortium envisaged “unprecedented growth opportunities” from the investment that will benefit Chinese soccer.
“We and our consortium partner CITIC Capital also see this investment as a prime opportunity for furthering the contribution of China to the global football family,” he said.
State-backed China Media Capital was founded by Li Ruigang, an influential Shanghai Communist Party member who has deftly mixed business and politics.
During Xi’s state visit to Britain, Xi and the Prince William looked on as Li inked a deal with a British attraction operator to build a new Lego theme park in Shanghai.
Li was present during Xi’s visit to the U.S. weeks earlier, when CMC announced a tie-up with Warner Brothers to produce and distribute films.
Aside from his film and entertainment concerns Li splashed US$1.3 billion last year to win broadcast rights for five years to the Chinese soccer league, in the latest sign of growing interest in soccer among China’s business elite. In 2014, Jack Ma, chairman of Internet giant Alibaba, purchased half of Guangzhou Evergrande, the reigning Asian Champions League winners.