Chinese money debuts in Premier League with Guochuan Lai taking over West Brom

August 5 – West Bromwich Albion are the latest English side to fall into the hands of ambitious Chinese owners following the acquisitions of neighbouring Midlands clubs Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

West Brom chairman Jeremy Peace – who held an 88% stake in the club – is stepping down after 14 years after agreeing to sell West Bromwich Albion Holdings, the club’s parent company, to Yunyi Guokai (Shanghai) Sports Development Limited headed by entrepreneur Guochuan Lai.

No value has been put on the sale but Peace was believed have set a £150 million price tag on the club that reported a £7.6 million profit in its last reported financial year. (see http://www.insideworldfootball.com/2014/07/09/matt-scott-west-…-man-is-at-peace/)

Lai immediate assured West Brom fans that its image as a well-run top-flight club will not be jeopardised.

“My immediate priorities will be to maintain the club’s stable structure, respecting its well-run nature and its heritage,” said Lai. “I have no intention of changing the club’s ethos. I believe that we have a competitive team, with the right management and coaching staff in place.”

Lai, 42, oversaw the growth of landscaping company Palm which is valued at £1.8 billion on the Chinese stock exchange.

“I believe this deal will enable Albion to build on the strong, sustainable foundations that have been the cornerstone of the club’s progress,” said Peace. “The club can look to the future with excitement about the opportunities ahead.”

Football forms a cornerstone of China’s planned cultural and economic plans over the next decade, with massive investment both domestically and overseas.

“There are already strong links between China and West Bromwich Albion, which began with an historic tour to China in May 1978 when the club accepted an invitation from the Chinese Government and became the first English club to tour China in modern history,” added Lai.

“I am proud that I will be the first mainland-Chinese owner of a Premier League club. 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.”

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