05/20/2014, 00.00
SINGAPORE - SPAIN
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Amid hopes and fears, Asian billionaires give new life to the European football

Billionaire and palm oil magnate Peter Lim, the 60 year old son of a fisherman, buys 70% of the Valencia clubs’ shares. A buy out aided by the over 300 million dollar deficit in the European clubs’ coffers. European fans look to Asian and Middle Eastern magnates for top teams; but the unlikely marriage is not always successful .

Singapore (AsiaNews ) - Singapore billionaire Peter Lim is the new owner of Spanish Liga team Valencia CF, which ended the 2013/14 season mid-table after a difficult start . By purchasing the Spanish team, the Asian tycoon has realized a long-cherished dream: to become the patron of a European team and compete to win a continental trophy. He hopes to achieve better results than other Asian tycoons, such as the Indonesian Erick Thohir who is reeling from a disappointing first season with Inter Milan (Milan , Italy).

Restio ai riflettori e alle luci della ribalta, 60enne figlio di pescivendoli, Lim ha accumulato una ingente fortuna investendo i propri beni in una compagnia che tratta olio di palma. Tifoso di calcio e supporter del Manchester United, egli non ha rinunciato nel 2010 a un'asta per l'acquisto degli storici rivali del Liverpool pur di possedere una squadra di pallone di prima fascia. Il 17 maggio scorso il Consiglio di amministrazione della Valencia Foundation ha approvato all'unanimità la proposta avanzata da Lim di rilevare il 70,4% delle quote societarie del club; indebitato e sull'orlo del fallimento, il team spagnolo in passato ha raggiunto per due volte la finale di Champions League. Da tempo i vertici societari erano alla ricerca di investitori, in particolare da quando lo sponsor principale Bankia ha rifiutato di rifinanziare un debito da 306 milioni di euro. 

Reluctant to the limelight , a 60 year old son of fishmongers, Lim amassed a huge fortune by investing his assets in a palm oil company. A major football fan and supporter of Manchester United, in 2010 he even bid at an auction for the purchase of arch-rivals Liverpool in his attempt to own a premier league football team. On 17 May, the Valencia Foundation Board of Directors unanimously approved the proposal made by Lim to take on 70.4% of the club's shares; heavily in debt and on the brink of bankruptcy, the Spanish team has reached twice the Champions League final. The top management had been on the lookout for investors , especially since the main sponsor Bankia had refused to refinance a debt to the tune of 306 million euro.

Lim has an estimated personal fortune of $ 2.4 billion , is married to former actress Cherie Lim and is the father of two children. Owner of a 11-storey house in a prestigious district of the city - state , where apartments cost a fortune , and a car park that includes 25 Ferraris, he seems to be the right man to revive the fortunes of the Spanish team, six times winner La Liga.

However, fans have greeted the news with a mix of fear and superstition , given the mixed success with which magnates, tycoons or monarchs in Asia and the Middle East have bought to top European teams. For example, the former Hong Kong hairdresser and now Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung Ka -sing, sentenced to six years in prison for money laundering . Or the Malaysian tycoon Vincent Tan, who sparked a revolt among Cardiff City fans, a Welsh team nicknamed "Bleubirds", because he wanted to change the historic team color blue to the luckier - he said - red . Moreover, the fines imposed by UEFA - European football's governing body - on Manchaster City and Paris Saint Germain (PSG), respectively owned by Sheikh Mansour and the Sheik Al- Khelaifi , for "violation of the Financial Fair Play" which punishes outstanding debts .

In any case, the Asian and Middle Eastern tycoons are still the best hope for many European clubs fans, who hope the petrodollars or new billionaires in the Far East can revive the fortunes of their favorites. For weeks, AC Milan supporters - prestigious club owned by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, which also interested Peter Lim - have been calling for the sale of the company or the entry of non-European capital, after consistently bad seasons from an economic and sporting viewpoint .

 

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