Chinese sports magnate interested in Liverpool

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Chinese sports magnate interested in Liverpool

LONDON - A Chinese businessman with a minority stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers has offered to buy Liverpool’s $374 million debt from a British bank in an attempt to end Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr.’s control of the English Premier League club.

A person familiar with the situation said Monday that Kenny Huang is in talks with Royal Bank of Scotland.

The person was not authorized to talk to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press.

American co-owners Hicks and Gillett bought Liverpool three years ago but have put it up for sale after a public fallout over the running of the club.

Huang, who is co-chair of both the National Basketball League of China and the Chinese Baseball League, has made no announcement but has appointed a British media relations firm to represent him “in respect to his interest” in the Liverpool team.

Huang was the first Chinese college graduate from mainland China to work at the New York Stock Exchange, in 1988. He negotiated the purchase of a 15 percent stake in the NBA’s Cavaliers in May 2009 and is director and co-founder of SportsCorp China, the New York Yankees’ exclusive marketing partner in China.

Huang was first linked to a takeover of the 18-time English champions two years ago.

The purchase of the debt would not make him the club owner but would give him great influence over Hicks and Gillett.

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson said last month that he wants the uncertainty resolved as soon as possible, giving him time to bring in new players before the transfer window closes Aug. 31. There is no set deadline for the talks with the bank.

Among the players being linked to Liverpool is forward Park Chu-young of AS Monaco. Park developed into a serviceable forward, producing eight goals last season in the French Ligue 1. The Korean national team member is also an attractive option for the team to reach out to the Asian football market.

Hicks and Gillett bought Liverpool in February 2007 for what was then $431 million in a leveraged takeover. The club lost $23.5 million before tax last season, a steep drop from a healthy profit the previous year. But the Americans still value it at $948 million.

Hicks and Gillett promised to build a 60,000-seat stadium to help the club compete financially with Manchester United and Arsenal, but construction was halted in August 2008 because of the global economic crisis.

Manchester United’s Old Trafford holds 76,000 fans and Arsenal moved from 38,000-seat Highbury into the 60,000-seat Emirates Stadium in 2006.

AP
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