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English Premier League

Premier League club West Bromwich Albion to be bought by Shanghai-based company

Midlands club says a Chinese investment group has agreed to buy it

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 August, 2016, 4:05pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 August, 2016, 6:10pm

West Bromwich Albion will soon become the latest English football club to be bought out by Chinese investors.

The Premier League team said on Friday that Yunyi Guokai (Shanghai) Sports Development Limited, headed by entrepreneur Lai Guochuan, will complete a takeover of the club, subject to approval by the league and English financial authorities.

The takeover was agreed to on June 24 and will “usher in an exciting new phase of the club’s development,” the club said.

In a statement, the 42-year-old Lai described himself as a “lifelong football fan” and said he was “excited and privileged” to become the new owner of West Brom.

“My immediate priorities will be to maintain the club’s stable structure, respecting its well-run nature and its heritage. I have no intention of changing the club’s ethos.”

Lai said in a personal message to West Brom fans on the club’s website that China was entering “a golden age for football.”

“China has a massive football fan base, which has only been growing in the past years,” he said. “There is also a real commitment, strongly supported by the government, to develop football and its culture in China, and I am convinced that this transaction will serve to reinforce the love of football, while bringing West Bromwich Albion millions of new dedicated fans.”

Current West Brom chairman Jeremy Peace is to resign after 14 years in the role. He will stay on in an advisory capacity for the coming season, which begins in a week’s time.

“I believe this deal will enable Albion to build on the strong, sustainable foundations that have been the cornerstone of the club’s progress,” Peace said.

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West Brom has been in England’s top division since 2010.

Aston Villa, who were relegated from the Premier League last season for the first time, were taken over by Chinese businessman Xia Jiantong in June.

Wolverhampton Wanderers were bought out by Chinese conglomerate Fosun International in July in a 100 percent takeover.

And a Chinese firm bought a stake in Birmingham, another League Championship club.

West Brom, Villa, Wolves and Birmingham are all clubs in central England.

Manchester City also announced in December that China Media Capital Holdings and CITIC Capital were investing US$400 million to buy 13 percent of the Premier League club’s umbrella organisation.