West Bromwich Albion football club has been bought by Chinese company, Yunyi Guokai (Shanghai) Sports Development, which is controlled by Guochuan Lai. It is the third West Midlands football club to be bought by a Chinese company this summer.
The new owner Mr Lai has said that the club is “a great investment”.
He said: “This historic deal will result in a rapid and significant increase in interest in the Club in China, which should lead to attractive commercial opportunities.
“Meanwhile the Club will be uniquely positioned to take its well-regarded training system to China, helping to identify and develop more talented young players in the future.”
Mr Lai was partly responsible for the growth of the Chinese corporation Palm, which grew from a small landscape engineering company into a £1.8bn group. It is now developing eco towns across China and places emphasis on health, culture and leisure, including the provision of football facilities at the heart of communities.
Mr Lai, who is still a director of a number of Palm’s subsidiaries, hopes these Chinese eco town developments can bring West Brom “millions of new dedicated fans”.
In an open letter to fans Mr Lai describes himself as a lifelong football supporter who has followed the Premier League club “for many years”, dating back to the club’s tour of China in 1978.
He said: “My passion for the game is one motivation for the acquisition. But there is more to it than that.
“From a business stand-point, the club is a great investment: it is financially sound and has a strong management team. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to capitalise on these strengths and continue its growth and focus on league performance.”
Mr Lai has no intention of changing the club’s ethos. He made it clear that he respects its heritage and his immediate priorities are maintaining the club’s stable structure. West Brom is a rare example of a profitable Premier League club, with its last five years all being profitable, with aggregate pre-tax profits of £43m.