HONG KONG • Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan has agreed in principle to sell the English football club to a Hong Kong-listed company, highlighting the appeal of lower-league clubs to wealthy foreign investors.
The International Entertainment Corporation (IEC), controlled by the family of the late Hong Kong property tycoon Cheng Yu Tung, said it had been given an exclusive two-week window until Feb 14 to negotiate the takeover terms with Whelan.
The deal, “if materialised, represents a good opportunity to diversify the income stream of the company and broaden its revenue base”, IEC said in a financial statement.
Whelan, 81, took over at Wigan in 1995 and presided over their rise from the fourth tier to the Premier League a decade later. The club currently sit top of the table in the third-tier League One.
The Hong Kong-based group describes itself as a hotel operator and also manages the “leasing of properties for casino and ancillary leisure and entertainment operations”.
The group owns the AG New World Manila Bay Hotel and casino in the Philippine capital. Its current chairman, Stanley Choi, is a professional poker player, according to China Sports Insider.
Wigan are not the first lower-league club to be owned by Asian owners.
Trillion Trophy Asia, who are controlled by Hong Kong businessman Paul Suen, took over Championship club Birmingham City in 2016.
Other notable Championship teams include Aston Villa (owned by Recon Group’s Dr Tony Xia of China) and Cardiff City (Berjaya Group’s Vincent Tan of Malaysia).
In the Premier League, Thailand’s King Power Group owns Leicester, while Southampton and West Brom both have Chinese owners.