By Nick Harris
4 August 2010
Kenny Huang, the Chinese businessman reportedly backed by a Far East sovereign wealth fund in his putative bid for Liverpool, has confirmed he has tabled NO formal offer for the club, yet.
The 46-year-old has released a statement to The Sport Briefing – a subsidiary of Britain’s Press Association news agency – that says: “In response to widespread media reports that Kenny Huang had made a formal bid for Liverpool Football Club, Mr Huang would like to emphasise that he has registered interest in investing in Liverpool FC but has made no formal bid.
“There has been much speculation and commentary from a wide array of people, many of whom have little knowledge of the facts.
“Unless there is a statement that specifically comes from Mr Huang or his authorised representatives, which presently is solely Hill & Knowlton Hong Kong office, we would suggest such comments should be given little credence.
“At this point in time there is nothing further for Mr Huang to announce. If there comes a time where this changes, we will make the appropriate announcements.”
Huang is reportedly backed by wealthy funds but the stress is on “reportedly”: no names or details have surfaced from authoritative sources, let alone been confirmed.
There is an array of information about Huang in the public domain, some of which can be confirmed as true, some of which can be confirmed as false, and some of which is pure speculation.
The Sport Briefing itself, for example, along with several other sources, continues to repeat that Huang owns a 15 per cent stake in the NBA basketball team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This is simply not true.
Huang confirmed he owns no stake in the Cavaliers in the sixth paragraph of the press release linked here. Note that in the fourth paragraph of the same release, which is from April 2010, that Huang’s business partner was described as Mr Adrian Cheng, who is a bona fide billionaire. Mr Huang and Mr Cheng parted company – in business terms – in May, as was confirmed in another press statement linked here.
Facts about Huang that are true, and provable*:
(*And the aim of sportingintelligence is to ascertain facts for our readers, and to prove them)
- Huang is a well-connected businessman who has acted as a broker in sports deals, including introducing the beer brand Tsingtao to the Cleveland Cavaliers. A video of a relevant press conference is here.
- Huang has also acted as an intermediary to introduce a new sponsorship partner to baseball’s New York Yankees. It is untrue that he owns, or has ever owned, any share of the Yankees. But it is true, in a deal announced as recently as yesterday, that he introduced a Chinese food firm to the Yankees. In a press statement on the Yankees’ official website, linked here, there is confirmation that Uni-President has become a Yankees sponsor, “in the instant-noodle category”, for four years.
- Uni-President is a massive Taiwan / Chinese food firm that also supports the fledgling China Baseball League, which Huang owns the commercial rights to. Huang doesn’t own any share in Uni-President: the firm does sponsor youth sports projects organised by Huang, however.
- Huang hopes to develop baseball in China, and also capitalise on the popularity of basketball in China. He bought a Chinese basketball team – Jilin Tigers – last year. They play in the main CBA league.
- Separately, Huang is a promoter and commercial partner in the third-tier semi-professional NBL league. His ascent in Chinese sports circles has been swift, as described in this China Daily piece from December 2009. BEWARE that it repeats the falsehood of his ownership or involvement in a stake in the Cavaliers because NO such deal was done by Huang or any associates; but it should be noted he has started a basketball magazine, another fact (like all facts about him) that we have independently verified.
- As we reported on Monday, Huang owns a company in Hong Kong, QSL Sports Limited, which describes itself as a “sports investment company”. Its simple website hasn’t been updated in several months, and isn’t working at the time of writing. Adrian Cheng was Huang’s former partner is this enterprise, a vehicle mainly for development of youth sport.
- Huang has reportedly made fortunes in a variety of capital markets and via numerous firms but it is hard to verify some of the claims. One of his companies, the vehicle apparently for some of his Sino-US ventures, is the Aspen Infrastructure Investment Corporation, but the telephone number listed for its New York HQ is not in service.
From talking to people who have worked with Kenny Huang in America, in sport and business, and who know him via Chinese sport, sportingintelligence has been told he is a “nice guy”, a “deal maker”, and “well-connected”. But there is no hard evidence he has substantial funds of his own, and there is skepticism within China that he has a Chinese sovereign wealth fund behind him. The notion that CIC, for example, is backing him is fanciful as can be established by reading the company’s own stated policies. Profit is essential for CIC; and football does not guarantee profit. [8.30pm update, 4 Aug: Huang is, we understand, telling Liverpool that CIC is the sovereign fund behind him, but NO interested party in Liverpool has yet to provide proof of funds.]
In another Liverpool development, the Syrian businessman Yahya Kirdi, claiming to represent a consortium from the Middle East and Canada, has claimed that a detailed deal had been agreed with the club’s American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Kirdi is known to be friendly with the Gillett family, which raises suspicions of price-rising tactics over the value of the club. A statement on behalf of Kirdi released by an Ontario-based PR firm, GameDay, said the deal was “in the final stage of negotiation”. That cannot be independently corroborated at this stage.
To add further confusion to a complex puzzle, Keith Harris, the Seymour Pierce deal-maker who has brokered the sales of Chelsea, Manchester City and Aston Villa among others, has hinted there is at least one other bidder of substance in the market. He said today: “We’ve looked at it very carefully on behalf of would-be buyers, who we know are very serious, we know are cash-rich, we know have the right incentive to do it, the right motivation to do it, and are prepared to take a long-term view.
“I can’t say any more at the moment. We have represented a buyer in the past and that is an ongoing situation.”
The plot thickens, and the agony of Liverpool’s fans – kept in the dark for far too long by the club, its executives and its owners – goes on.
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