December 20 – A second-tier unheralded club in the industrial north of England with a relatively small but loyal and passionate fan base surrounded by larger rivals may not seem the most obvious target for a foreign takeover.
But a consortium including Chinese billionaire Chien Lee and Billy Beane, the baseball data guru who inspired the Hollywood film ‘Moneyball’ starring Brad Pitt, have taken control of Barnsley for a relatively low £20 million.
American investors Paul Conway and Grace Hung are involved with the new patrons acquiring the club from longstanding owner Patrick Cryne, who in September revealed he has terminal cancer.
“The club have gained English Football League approval for the change in majority shareholder and our new shareholders have now taken up their positions on the board of Barnsley Football Club,” Barnsley said in a statement.
Lee, founder and chairman of investment firm NewCity Capital, bought 80% of French club Nice last year and sits on the board at the Ligue 1 club alongside Conway, who leads Pacific Media Group along with Hung.
Lee and Conway will become co-chairmen at Barnsley, who spent one season in the Premier League in 1997-98 but are currently close to the relegation zone in England’s Championship.
“Similar to our investment in OGC Nice, we expect to further enhance the academy, playing squad, commercial operations and fan experience of Barnsley Football Club,” Conway said. “Barnsley has some of the most passionate fans in England and we look forward to meeting many of its supporters in the upcoming weeks.”
Barnsley are the fourth Championship team to fall under Chinese control following the Midlands trio of Aston Villa, Birmingham City and league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers.
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