Chinese Investor Scores With Southampton Premier League Team

  • Chinese company said to have sought control of U.K. club
  • Follows West Bromwich, Aston Villa, Birmingham City deals

China’s Lander Sports Development Co. agreed to buy a stake in Southampton, the English Premier League team, in what could become one of the highest-profile Chinese acquisitions in U.K. soccer.

The Chinese company signed an agreement with the club’s owner, Katharina Liebherr, according to a statement to the Shenzhen stock exchange on Thursday, a day after Southampton defeated Liverpool to reach the final of England’s EFL Cup. Financial terms weren’t disclosed but people familiar with the matter said late last year that Lander Sports may buy control for as much as 200 million pounds ($253 million).

For Lander Sports, investing in the Premier League would give it a seat in the richest and most-watched soccer league on the planet. Should the deal be completed, Southampton would join West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa and Birmingham City among teams sold to Chinese investors.

China Media Capital in December 2015 invested $400 million to acquire a minority stake in Premier League heavyweight Manchester City. That followed a visit to the club by President Xi Jinping.

Lander Sports, based in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, builds stadiums across China, and has the rights to host the International Basketball Federation’s Stankovic Continental Cup, according to the company’s website. Its shares have been suspended since October.

— With assistance by Jing Yang De Morel, and Tariq Panja

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