Embattled Millionaire Plans to Sell Football Teams

  • Tan said to be shopping Cardiff City, MLS Los Angeles share
  • Bluebirds fans irked by jersey color change from blue to red

Embattled soccer owner Vincent Tan is throwing in the towel. The Malaysian businessman is selling the one-time Premier League team Cardiff City and his stake in Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles FC, as well as professional teams in Bosnia and Belgium, according to people familiar with the offerings.

Tan, who leads the Malaysian conglomerate Berjaya Group, has grown increasingly unpopular with Cardiff fans since buying the team in 2010. Under his ownership, the team was promoted to the Premier League, then relegated to the second division again, where it’s currently in the middle of the table. Fans also howled at some of Tan’s efforts to raise the team’s global profile, including changing the color of the Bluebirds home jersey to red.

Including the purchase price of the team, Tan has spent more than 180 million pounds ($220 million) on Cardiff, said one of the people, who asked to be anonymous because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The club lost 8 million pounds on revenue of 38 million pounds in 2015, according to its most-recent financial report.

Tan is said to be looking to sell Cardiff City for around 50 million pounds. In July, China’s Fosun International Ltd. paid about 45 million pounds for Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are currently 11 points behind Cardiff City. Tan would also consider selling his soccer portfolio as a whole, said one of the people.

"We would entertain an offer but we’re in no rush to sell, nor do we need to sell," Mehmet Dalman, a former board member of Commerzbank AG who’s Cardiff chairman, said by phone. LAFC executives declined to comment. FK Sarajevo and KV Kortrijk did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Led by Larry Berg, Brandon Beck and Bennett Rosenthal, the ownership group of the Los Angeles Football Club paid MLS $110 million to put a second club in the nation’s second-biggest media market, part of the league’s overall expansion to 28 clubs. Tan is one of a handful of minority shareholders and isn’t involved in the daily operation of the franchise.

LAFC owners are also paying for the team’s new $350 million stadium in South Los Angeles, which is scheduled to open in time for the club’s 2018 debut.

The average MLS club is worth about $185 million, up 80 percent from 2013, according to annual valuations by Forbes Magazine.