Chinese Tycoon Buys Daughter Third Division Football Club, Eying London IPO
Chinese petrochemical tycoon Ai Yakang's daughter, Ai Ru, "wanted a football team," according to Leo Lewis of THE AUSTRALIAN. So, the 25-year-old actress and model "has been granted her wish by her doting father." The youngest exec in the Chinese football league by many years, Ai is the president, spokesperson, manager and ambassador of third division side Sichuan Leaders FC, which has played only two professional games (won one, lost one) since being founded in February. By her father's definition, Ai "is a businesswoman from a new Chinese mould." On the eve of her team's first home game, she said that her energies "would be devoted towards getting her squad to play as a team, building the players' confidence and creating a decent-sized fan base that she wants to run eventually into the tens of thousands." Ultimately, "she wants the team to enter the Super League." She is "also working out how to have her team's matches," which will not be broadcast on TV, streamed on to the Internet, a move that "could revolutionise the way that small teams with small budgets build support." Ai is "not daunted by the challenges that face her." She said, "China is at a time when great things are happening all the time. I think it is clear that football is going to become a big part of the way Chinese people entertain themselves" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 4/23). In London, Leo Lewis reported Sichuan Leaders FC "is hoping to list its shares in London." The initial public offering, if successful, "would be the first by a Chinese football club on an exhcange outside its homeland." Sources involved in preparations for the listing said that an IPO of a Chinese football club in London "was critical for the sport’s development in the world’s second-biggest economy" (LONDON TIMES, 4/22).