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Chinese court blacklists former AC Milan owner Li Yonghong over US$10 million debts

Downfall of the man who bought one of football’s biggest clubs from Silvio Berlusconi continues as court finds no assets to repay creditor

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 12:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 10:49pm

The Chinese former owner of AC Milan has been added to China’s blacklist of untrustworthy individuals over millions of dollars in unpaid debts, according to a local court, which ordered that his passport be confiscated.

Li Yonghong emerged from obscurity to buy one of Europe’s most high-profile and decorated football clubs from former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in 2017.

He was one of dozens of wealthy Chinese investing in or simply buying up some of the sport’s biggest clubs after Chinese President Xi Jinping declared he wanted to turn China into a football superpower.

But Li’s control of AC Milan was plagued from the start and this summer a creditor took over the club.

The order this autumn from the Jingmen City Intermediate People’s Court in central China, made public in October, is the latest indication of Li’s declining fortunes.

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Li was on the hook for 60 million yuan (US$8.7 million) in unpaid debt to a Hubei province investment company, and a 12 million yuan penalty, according to the court.

But the court found no assets to seize to repay the creditor. Li had no bank deposits or cars registered in his name.

Instead, Li’s name was added to China’s national blacklist of untrustworthy individuals, which restricts people from travelling by high-speed train and plane, staying in expensive hotels or getting a credit card.

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As a Hong Kong resident, Li’s passport was ordered to be confiscated and he was prohibited from entering or exiting China, although his whereabouts are unknown.

The US$740 million deal for AC Milan was subject to payment problems, with Li’s bid secured only by a last-minute high-interest loan from a US hedge fund.

In July, Li’s group was unable to repay the loan and the hedge fund, Elliott Management, took control of the club.