Fans make a play for Lotte Giants
BY KIM SIK, KIM BONG-MOON
Angry Lotte Giants fans are trying to take over the Busan club and turn it into a cooperative.
A planning group said Tuesday it will hold a public hearing on Friday at the Busan YMCA with the aim of turning the company-owned club into a community club.
The group plans to set up a corporate body for the project this year to solicit investments with the goal of acquiring the club from Lotte Group next year.
“We appreciate what the Lotte Giants have contributed to the city, but the club is less than a hundredth of the entire Lotte Group,” said group member Han Seung-yeop, a social welfare professor at Busan Women’s College. “If Lotte gives the Giants to Busan citizens, I’m sure the club will be well managed, and the new Busan Giants also will satisfy local fans.”
The Giants went through a series of front-office scandals after the club finished last season in seventh place out of nine teams in the Korea Baseball Organization.
Giants players released a statement on Oct. 28 blaming Lee Mun-han, the director of operations who has since resigned, for the disintegrating morale of the team.
The situation deteriorated when it was learned the front office secretly monitored players with security cameras when they stayed at a hotel for an away game.
President Choi Ha-jin and General Manager Bae Jae-hu also resigned, but fans are still not happy.
The planning group is considering turning the club into a cooperative, like the Spanish football league’s Barcelona FC. It will try to collect 90 billion won ($83 million) for the acquisition by getting 300,000 fans to invest 300,000 won each.
“If we cannot reach 90 billion won, we also are thinking of including local businesses,” said a member of the group.
There are 10 community clubs supported by local governments in the country’s first- and second-tier football leagues. None of them work like a cooperative and there has never been one in Korea.
The group said it will offer 40 billion won for the club based on an appraisal by a certified public accountant. But that is much lower than the 85.7 billion won suggested by Forbes Korea in December.
“We are not responding to the public hearing,” said Lee Yun-won, the new general manager. “I would like to ask fans to watch the team change under the new front-office staff members.”
Experts say the professional baseball club is actually worth more than 100 billion won, and there is no reason that Lotte Group would want to sell it.