China’s Fosun Buys English Soccer Club Wolverhampton Wanderers

Fosun, the Chinese conglomerate that owns part of Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8 and is co-producing Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” has joined the crowd of Asian investors buying European sports teams.

Fosun has bought Wolverhampton Wanderers, a team from England’s Midlands region that plays in the Championship, the second tier English league. It finished 14th last year. Nicknamed ‘Wolves,’ the club confirmed the news on its website on Thursday. By late-evening Thursday Fosun International had not notified the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, where its shares are traded.

The club said that the deal gave Fosun 100% ownership following a transfer of assets from the Bridgemere Group. It explained that the deal has already been approved by the English Football League and ratified by its board.

Wolves said that the financial terms of the deal were confidential. It has been widely reported in the past few days that the deal is valued at some $59 million (GBP45 million).

Fosun is headed by Guo Guangchang, a billionaire who is sometimes described as “China’s Warren Buffet.” Guo hit the headlines late last year when he mysteriously disappeared for a few days and was later confirmed as helping Chinese authorities with investigations. No charges have been brought against Guo or Fosun as a result.

Under Guo, Fosun has diversified from chemicals and metals into pharmaceuticals and more recently into insurance, tourism, leisure and entertainment. In addition to its involvement in Studio 8, the group owns a major stake in Cirque du Soileil, a majority of Club Mediterranee, and smaller holdings in British travel firm Thomas Cook and South Korean talent agency SM Group. It recently bought French fashion brand Folli Follie.

In the past two years, Chinese companies have become major buyers of European sports assets, particularly soccer which is massively popular and in which the Chinese government is encouraging major growth. Among the recent deals Dalian Wanda bought a significant minority stake in Spain’s Atletico Madrid, China Media Capital bought a stake in England’s Manchester City and Baidu may be in the process of buying AC Milan.

The deals appear to be motivated by a combination of factors. These include acquiring rights for Chinese domestic streaming video services; transfers of talent, know-how and club championships from Europe to China; glamour and prestige; and the prospect of developing even second tier clubs into major brands and qualifying for international tournaments.

That dream appeared to come true last year for King Power, a duty free retailer from Thailand, which is the major backer of Leicester City. The unfashionable Leicester defied 1,000 to 1 odds to win the English Premier League. Leicester is now set to receive massively larger TV rights revenue as winning in England guarantees it a year of international matches in the pan-European Champions League.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Comcast Xfinity Flex

    Comcast Drops $5 Monthly Fee for Xfinity Flex Video-Streaming Set-Top for Broadband Customers

    Comcast will hand out one free set-top box for broadband subscribers to access Xfinity Flex, its video-streaming product for internet-only customers, as it looks to punch up the value of its high-speed internet business. Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and CEO, announced the new strategy at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia conference Wednesday in New York. “One of [...]

  • Red Bull Music to Stage Festivals

    Red Bull Music to Stage Festivals in Atlanta and Chicago Next Month (EXCLUSIVE)

    Red Bull Music today announced two U.S. music festivals taking place next month: Its first-ever festival in Atlanta — featuring Teyana Taylor, Denzel Curry, Ari Lennox and others, taking place Nov. 1-15 — and a return to Chicago, which stars Lupe Fiasco, Tierra Whack, Jamila Woods and more, and runs Nov. 17-30. The festivals are [...]

  • Taylor Swift performs at Amazon Music's

    Why Isn't Taylor Swift Doing a Big U.S. Tour for 'Lover'?

    Industry chatter was buzzing for weeks: Why hasn’t Taylor Swift announced a tour yet? Her new album, “Lover,” is a hit; she’s already performed on TV and did a ten-song set at a blockbuster Amazon Prime concert in New York in June, and she and her band clearly are ready. And yet touring industry insiders [...]

  • Sully

    Georgia Attorney General Closes Probe of 'Sully' Tax Credits

    The Georgia attorney general’s office has closed a criminal investigation into Warner Bros.’ use of tax credits on the Clint Eastwood film “Sully,” after state revenue agents declined to pursue the case. The state prosecutor’s office opened a criminal probe two years ago, after a whistleblower alleged that the production had claimed more than $600,000 [...]

  • Spotify logo is presented on a

    Spotify VP Paul Vogel Talks Subscription Prices, Label Licenses, Podcasts

    The annual Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference gives representatives from major companies the opportunity to present to the investment community, and Paul Vogel, Spotify’s VP and head of financial planning & analysis, treasury and investor relations, spoke on the streaming giant’s behalf on Tuesday morning. While many of his comments were statements frequently heard in the [...]

  • Women in Animation Logo

    WIA Partners With Animation Mentor, Toon Boom to Expand Scholarship Program

    Women in Animation has partnered with Animation Mentor and Toon Boom to expand the organization’s WIA Scholarship Program with workshops and software packages. WIA scholarships are given to animation students with a financial need and who demonstrate talent and passion for animation that will lead to a promising career in the field. The Animation Mentor [...]

  • Def Jam, Astralwerks Launch Label Divisions

    Def Jam, Astralwerks Launch Label Divisions in South East Asia

    Universal Music Group today announced what it calls a significant expansion of its recorded music operations across South East Asia with the launch of two new label divisions: Def Jam South East Asia, to focus on the hip-hop scene within the region, and Astralwerks Asia, a label “with a true focus on nurturing talent within Asia across [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content