Manchester City Owner Gets $400 Million From Chinese Buyers

Chinese Buyers Take a Stake in City Football Group
  • Abu Dhabi-based company also owns New York City Football Club
  • China Media Capital to lead deal that includes CITIC Capital

A Chinese consortium led by China Media Capital Holdings is investing $400 million in the Abu Dhabi-based company that owns Manchester City Football club, the top-ranked English Premier League team.

CMC, a Shanghai-based private equity fund that owns the broadcast rights to the Chinese Super League, is teaming up with CITIC Capital Holdings to buy 13 percent of City Football Group, which also owns New York City Football Club and Melbourne City Football Club, according to a statement on Tuesday. The deal values City Football at $3 billion.

The deal was announced just weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Manchester City’s training ground, where he posed for a selfie with Argentine star player Sergio Aguero and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. CMC is chaired by Li Ruigang, who has led group investments including a stake in IMAX China Holding Inc., and tie ups with DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. and Warner Brothers by the fund focused on media content and sports events.

“Football is now at a fascinating and critical stage of development in China,” Li said in the statement. “We see unprecedented growth opportunities in both its development as an industry, being China’s most watched sport, and its inspirational role bringing people of all ages together with a shared passion.”

Wu Jiaming, the media spokeswoman for China Media, said in an e-mail that the investment in City Football Group would enable it to bring Manchester City to play matches in China, though that is not the main reason for the purchase. She declined to provide a breakdown of the investment between China Media and CITIC Capital.

Ma, Wang

Manchester City’s cross-town rival Manchester United Plc is listed on the New York Stock Exchange with a valuation of $3 billion.

The deal is the latest high-profile investment in sports ventures by Chinese companies. Last year Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. paid $192 million for a 50 percent stake in Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao Football Club, ranked number one in the Chinese Super League.

Dalian Wanda Group Co., controlled by billionaire Wang Jianlin, Asia’s richest man, said in August it was paying $650 million for the organizer of the Ironman races, World Triathalon Corp., adding to his holdings including soccer team Atletico Madrid. He also owns Zug, Switzerland-based sports marketing company Infront Sports & Media AG. China’s domestic market for sports beyond soccer will grow from $8 billion this year to $800 billion by 2025 including media rights, licensing, merchandise and sports-facility operations, Dalian Wanda said at the time.

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