China Games Executive Held Talks to Buy Liverpool

Zhu Jun, the founder of a Chinese online game developer that is listed in New York, has held talks about buying Liverpool Football Club, a spokeswoman for his company said today.

Phyllis Sai, spokeswoman for Shanghai-based The9 Ltd., declined to say in a phone interview whether Zhu, the company’s chairman and co-founder, was seeking to buy a controlling stake in the English Premier League soccer club. Liverpool spokesman Paul Tyrrell declined to comment on the story.

Liverpool, an 18-time English champion, was put up for sale last month by its U.S. co-owners, who hired Barclays Capital, the investment banking arm of Barclays Plc, and appointed a new chairman.

The British newspaper the Independent said today Zhu has held two exploratory meetings with Barclays Capital about buying the club, citing an informed person in Shanghai. The bank has contacted dozens of potential purchasers worldwide, the London- based newspaper said.

A person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News last month the Liverpool team may sell for as much as 500 million pounds ($740 million). The Independent said the owners were seeking 800 million pounds.

Zhu is proposing organizing a group of businessmen, perhaps including other owners of Chinese Super League teams, the Independent said. Zhu has said 800 million pounds is double the realistic valuation, the newspaper said.

Zhu, 44, owns the Chinese Super League team Shanghai Shenhua and was ranked 727 among the richest people in China in 2008 by the Hurun Report. The9, an online game developer and operator in China, was listed on the U.S.’s Nasdaq stock market in 2004, raising $103 million.

Any sale of Liverpool will bring to an end the three-year reign of U.S. co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks. Fans have urged them to sell amid concern that the club’s debt burden is too large.

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