Photographer: Dan Istitene/Getty Images

West Bromwich Albion Owner Receives U.S. Bid Approach

  • Yunyi Guokai head Lai has rejected the idea of a sale
  • Chinese government is cracking down on foreign takeovers

The owners of West Bromwich Albion Football Club have been approached by a U.S. investor interested in buying the English soccer club, according to people familiar with the situation.

Yunyi Guokai Shanghai Sports Development, which agreed to buy an 88 percent stake in the English Premier League club in 2016, has rejected the idea of a sale, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. The approach was made to another investor in the club, though Yunyi Guokai’s leader, Chinese entrepreneur Lai Guochuan, is the ultimate decision maker on any sale or new shareholder, the person said.

The U.S. group’s offer valued West Bromwich, known locally as the Baggies, at a premium to last year’s sale price of about 180 million pounds ($244 million), the people said.

“My information is that there was an enquiry,” said West Bromwich Chairman John Williams in an emailed statement. “Our majority shareholder made it clear that he wanted to retain control of the club and continue his plans for its ongoing development.”

While Chinese money has poured into top soccer clubs in Europe in the last few years, including Club Atletico de Madrid, AC Milan and former European Cup winner Aston Villa, investors are grappling with a government backlash against overseas spending.

West Bromwich has been in the Premier League since 2010 and benefits from the television sales that come with staying in England’s top-tier soccer association. Investors in the league face the risk that their teams will be relegated to a lower level after a bad season, forfeiting revenue.

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