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Timberwolves’ new Chinese stakeholder on buying spree

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Chinese businessman Jiang Lizhang has bought a 5% holding in the Minneapolis-based Timberwolves and associated women's team the Lynx
Chinese businessman Jiang Lizhang has bought a 5% holding in the Minneapolis-based Timberwolves and associated women’s team the Lynx

A Chinese businessman has bought a minority stake in the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, his company and the league said, after taking over Spanish La Liga football team Granada in a 37 million euro deal earlier this month.

Jiang Lizhang, 34, runs a little-known Shanghai-based marketing firm called Double-Edged Sports (Desports), but has secured spots in two of the world’s highest-profile sporting leagues in as many weeks.

He bought a five percent holding in the Minneapolis-based Timberwolves and associated women’s team the Lynx from owner Glen Taylor, who retains a majority stake, Desports said Thursday on a verified Chinese social media account. It did not give an amount for the purchase.

The deal makes him the first Chinese citizen to have an ownership stake in an NBA team, the league said in a statement.

“My goal is to bring China and this great league closer, and build the Timberwolves and Lynx fan base in our country,” it quoted Jiang as saying.

New York-based real estate magnate Meyer Orbach also took a stake in the teams at the same time.

The purchase comes shortly after Jiang bought Granada CF, paying the club’s Italian former owner Giampaolo Pozzo a reported 37 million euros ($41 million).

In a letter on Desports’ website Jiang described his new role as Granada’s owner as the “biggest challenge” he has ever taken on.

“You cannot change the direction of the wind, but you can take control of the sail,” he said.

Days after the deal was announced Granada replaced their manager, Juan Carlos Cordero, although it was not clear whether he was dismissed by Jiang.

Cordero wished Jiang “the best of luck”, in a statement on the club’s website, saying he believed the new owner “will know how to guide Granada FC through this new stage of good health and prosperity to great things”.

Jiang aims to retain the club’s place in Spain’s top flight and bring in more Chinese elements to increase its profile in the People’s Republic, which President Xi Jinping aims to turn into a footballing power.

Born into a fishing family in the eastern Chinese province of Fujian, Jiang started his sports career selling advertisements for a Chinese sports newspaper.

In 2004 he founded Desports, which brokers deals between Chinese companies and international sports organisations, such as tennis sponsorship and broadcasting deals, including for La Liga’s Chinese television rights, its website shows.

Jiang sold Desports to Shanghai-listed Wuhan DDMC Culture for 821 million yuan (now $123 million) in shares last July, but still runs the company.

“In the future, we might buy more football clubs, including Chinese ones,” Xinhua quoted a Desports source close to Jiang as saying.

Source by: AFP

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