English Premier League

Wigan Athletic takeover by Hong Kong casino giants moves step closer after Whelan family agree to sell: reports

Latics would join Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion as Chinese-owned Championship clubs if deal is approved by Football League

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2018, 11:53am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2018, 10:58pm

The takeover of English League One champions Wigan by a Hong Kong consortium has moved a step closer after the club’s owners the Whelan family agreed to sell in principle, according to reports in the British media.

The agreement to sell their majority stake to International Entertainment Corporation is now subject to approval from the English Football League and the Hong Kong stock exchange.

IEC is owned by the Cheng family’s Chow Tai Fook holdings and has been described as their “casino arm”.

It owns a “deluxe casino hotel” in the Philippines, the AG New World Manila Bay Hotel.

Reports suggest the deal will include a majority stake in both the club’s 25,000-seater DW Stadium, which they share with rugby league side Wigan Warriors, and their training ground, which they bought from rivals Bolton Wanderers in 2016.

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The Latics were promoted to the Championship, English football’s second tier, last weekend.

The club have just announced that manager Paul Cook has signed a new four-year deal with the League One champions.

Dave Whelan took over a majority stake in the club in 1995 and oversaw their rise up the English football pyramid, culminating in them reaching the Premier League in 2005. The side also beat near neighbours Manchester City in the 2013 FA Cup final, their only major trophy, although they were relegated from the top flight the same season.

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Whelan stepped down as chairman in 2015 and appointed his grandson David Sharpe as his successor.

The deal, which has been in negotiation since last October, was meant to be completed back in February but has been on hold.

If the deal is completed Wigan Athletic will become one of a growing number of English football clubs owned by China and Hong Kong-based companies.

Next year’s Championship will include Chinese-owned West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City, while Wolverhampton Wanderers have just won promotion to the Premier League.

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The Manchester Evening News reported in 2016 that Wigan will be the “north west gateway to high speed rail” upon completion of the High Speed Two rail development, news that was confirmed last year.