Wang Jianlin speaks at the Sanya Forum in Hainan, Dec. 15, 2013. (Photo/CNS)
Wang Jianlin, chairman of real estate developer Dalian Wanda Group, reportedly refuted a British media report that he planned to buy British Premier League soccer team Southampton FC for £1.75 million (US$2.8 million), reports Shanghai's China Business News.
UK tabloid the Sunday Mirror said Wang has been in negotiations with the British team regarding a takeover. The team's manager, Mauricio Pochettino, after learning of the supposed deal said an injection of funds from the deal would make the team stronger. The newspaper also reported on speculation that the Nicola Cortese, who recently departed the club as executive chairman, would return after the takeover is completed.
Wang, who has a keen interest in the sport, signed a three-year deal in 2011 with a Chinese football league to invest 500 million yuan (US$826 million) in various football fields. The following year, he registered and established Dalian Wanda Football Club and set up a program to send 30 Chinese footballers to train in Spain. He would become the first Chinese business tycoon to own a British football club if the deal were to happen.
A property development firm owner said the takeover would help boost Wanda Group's image since the British Premier League club is one of the top clubs in the world. It has over 400 million fans in over 100 countries around the world, which means that while the £1.75 million deal the paper reported on may seem expensive, a deal would be worth more than that commercially.
The group published a statement, however, to say that no individual from the group has ever been in contact with the football club, nor has it appointed any individual or third party to engage in negotiations on its behalf. Wanda Group also criticized Sunday Mirror's report as "pure fabrication."
Dalian Wanda Group 萬達集團
Wang Jianlin 王健林