French soccer club OGC Nice has been bought by a group of Chinese and American investors. The deal continues a recent trend of European sports acquisitions by Chinese corporations.
The investors are headed by Alex Zheng, president of hotels group Plateno, and Chien Lee, founder and CEO of NewCity Capital. The buying consortium also includes U.S. businessmen Paul Conway of the Pacific Media Group and Elliot Hayes.
Together they have acquired 80% of the club, with OGC Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere retaining 20%, the club said in a statement.
“New investors have been attracted to our project as well as the opportunities offered by OGC Nice and the French Riviera, especially in tourism, real estate, and hospitality that are the heart of their business. Moreover, China is an extremely fertile ground from a commercial point of view, especially as it awakens to the beauty of football,” said Rivere. “Their arrival secures the future of the club and will provide the additional resources for continuation of our vision. While keeping its identity and guidance, OGC Nice will gradually reach new heights.”
“Between the passion of its fans, its world-class stadium and future training center, the infrastructure is in place to achieve the management team’s vision. We are also enthused by the hospitality of the City and its administration,” said Chien Lee, who becomes chairman of the supervisory board.
The past few months have seen a flurry of Chinese investments in European sports – clubs and rights holders.
Last week noted Hong Kong investor Paul Suen proposed to buy at least 60% of England’s Birmingham City soccer team by taking over parent company Birmingam International from convicted fraudster Carson Yeung.
Another Birmingham-based tea Aston Villa is in talks with another Chinese businessman Tony Xia about a takeover. Attractive in both cases is the possibility of promotion to the English Premiere League, the richest soccer league in the world.
Earlier this month Chinese retailer Suning agreed to pay a reported $370 million for a 70% stake in Italy’s Inter Milan. Suning is a major shareholder in Chinese video streaming service PPTV.