5 Asian billionaires who own the ultimate status symbol: Football clubs
Business investment or status symbol? Acquiring football clubs seems to be gaining the interest of ultra high net worth Asians.
Tony Xia Jiantong, Chairman, CEO and Owner of Recon Group
Owns: Aston Villa F.C. Acquired in: May 2016 for a reported sum of £60m (S$103.8m) Tournament: English Football League (ongoing), ranked 17 of 24
Amidst football's rising popularity in China, Tony Xia took over Aston Villa in May 2016. He declared some ambitious goals then, vouching to restore the club’s place in the Premier League and to make it the most famous club in China, even the world.
However, a losing streak this season sees them at bottom of the table. Xia has since tweeted that the journey was "harder than expected”. Yet it's barely been half a year. The Chinese businessman seems willing to fork out any sum needed to get the team rolling, as evidenced by the recent signings of £12m (S$20.77m) striker Scott Hogan and at least two other top-tier players.
Peter Lim, Singaporean business magnate
Owns: Valencia CF Acquired in: May 2014 for €420m ($623.7m) Tournament: La Liga (ongoing), ranked 13 of 20
Peter Lim’s initial warm welcome to Valencia CF has cooled considerably over the last two seasons. The Singaporean billionaire acquired the Spanish football club in May 2014 to the relief of fans, management and players alike. The gargantuan sum of €420m (S$624m) went towards clearing the club's debts, completing the construction of a new stadium, and the acquisition of new players.
But in under three years, the team saw four coaches come and go. The instability took a toll on team performance: they're currently in the bottom half of the table at 13 of the 20 La Liga teams. Frustrated with the lack of results, fans have turned on Lim, and earlier this year called for him to sell the club in a public demonstration.
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Founder, Owner and Chairman of King Power
Owns: Leicester City Acquired in: Aug 2010 for a reported sum of £39m (S$67.5m) Tournament: Premier League (ongoing), ranked 15 of 20
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s acquisition of Leicester City in Aug 2010 paid off last year when they were crowned as unlikely Premier League champions (season 2015/16). But the win didn’t come easy, as the Thai billionaire put in millions to stabilise club finances. Instead of splurging on costly superstars, Vichai has observed modest signings to date. The team he assembled was evidently champion material. However, the club now sits at a dismal 15 of 20 teams and is in danger of relegation.
Photo: Mark Greenwood / HPC
Vincent Tan, Chairman and Chief Executive of Berjaya Group
Owns: Cardiff City F.C. Acquired more than 35 per cent of shares in: May 2010 for a reported sum of £6m ($10.4m) Tournament: Cardiff City – English Football League (ongoing), ranked 12 of 24;
FK Sarajevo – Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ongoing), ranked 2 of 12;
K.V. Kortrijk – Belgian First Division A, ranked 10 of 16
Following his acquisition of Cardiff City F.C. in May 2010, Vincent Tan went on to buy FK Sarajevo and KV Kortrijk; his hat trick of sorts. Under his management, the English club underwent a controversial change in club colours (from blue and white to red and black, then back again), and enjoyed a stadium expansion, new training facilities and an increased transfer budget. Although the club managed to secure promotion into the Premier League by default as the 2012/13 Championship winners, they were relegated again in the following season.
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Owner of Abu Dhabi United Group
Owns: Manchester City FC Acquired in: Sep 2008 for a reported sum of £210m (S$363.8m) Tournament: Premier League (ongoing), ranked 3 of 20
Sheikh Mansour’s investment in Manchester City has reaped massive rewards. Following his takeover in Sep 2008, he enlisted one superstar after another into the team lineup, leveraging on his considerable financial muscle. Despite changing coaches twice, the team has won two Premier League titles (2011/12 and 2013/14), one FA Cup title (2010/11) and two League Cup titles (2013/14 and 2015/16). In Oct 2015, the club announced a record £352m (S$609.9m), the first profit since the takeover. Sheik Mansour also owns Melbourne City FC and New York City FC under the Manchester City Group.