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SBD Global/January 21, 2014/Franchises

Southampton Could Become Richest EPL Club As Chinese Billionare Eyes Takeover

China businessman Wang Jianlin is eyeing a takeover at Southampton.

China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, "is ready to add to the boardroom intrigue" at EPL side Southampton with a takeover bid, according to the London DAILY MIRROR. The move "could see Nicola Cortese returning to his role as the club’s executive chairman." Manager Mauricio Pochettino was demanding talks with ­Southampton Owner Katharina Liebherr Friday "as the dust settles on Cortese’s departure on Wednesday night." But Pochettino is believed to be aware of interest from Wang, boss of the Dalian Wanda group, "who could make the Saints the richest club in the Premier League." Wang's property development company is worth £19B ($31B) "and his own personal fortune around half that figure." Now, Wang, 59, "wants to break into English ­football to add to the company’s incredible portfolio" and is believed to be lining up a £175M ($287M) bid for Saints that Liebherr is ready to accept (DAILY MIRROR, 1/18).

PLAN B: METRO's Chris Rann wrote talk of Southampton being taken over by Wang "is not a new rumor." It has been "bubbling under the surface for a while." Cortese spoke of his "Plan B" when former Owner Markus Liebherr died, and that "he knew people with money who would be interested in investing in the club." Since then, Saints "signed a commercial partnership with the South Coast luxury yacht maker Sunseeker." The story has now broken in the national media, and "the name of Nicola Cortese is all over it." So "is this his Plan B kicking into effect?" It would be some comeback from the former Saints CEO "if he rode back into town with the level of financial backing that would make Saints richest club in the Premier League." In many ways the links are all there, "but perhaps that is wishful thinking." Sunseeker is already a partner of the club and the Dalian Wanda group is run by Wang, "who has a keen interest in investing in football." They also own a luxury hotel brand, "which would fit Cortese’s vision of complex on the St. Mary’s site to cater for all needs" (METRO, 1/19). 

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