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Chinese group acquires A-League team

The Chinese business sector has furthered its investment in football after it was confirmed today (Tuesday) that LED signage manufacturer and operator the Ledman Group has completed a takeover of Australian A-League club Newcastle Jets.

Financial terms of the deal, which was announced by Football Federation Australia (FFA), were not disclosed, although Australian public-service broadcaster ABC reported that the agreement is worth A$5m (€3.3m/$3.7m).

The Jets suffered financially under its previous regime, with former owner Nathan Tinkler last year leaving the club in significant debt. The Jets’ plight led to the FFA assuming ownership of the club and it was the national governing body that oversaw the sale to Ledman.

Ledman is an integrated sports business and is currently an official partner of the top-tier Chinese Super League. It also owns Shenzhen Renren, which operates in the third-tier Chinese League Two competition, and holds title sponsorship rights to Portugal’s Segunda Liga. In addition, Ledman is a shareholder in the Infront Sports & Media agency.

“We see a bright future for football across Asia and the Hyundai A-League is at the forefront as one of the top professional leagues in the region,” Ledman chairman Martin Lee said. “The investment aligns with Ledman’s activities in several sectors of the sports industry and I’m excited by the potential of the club.

“Most of all, I understand that the Newcastle Jets are a very important part of the Newcastle community. I want to work closely with everyone in Newcastle, the fans, members and the local football community, to make this club the best it can be.”

FFA chairman Steven Lowy added: “In the decade since joining the Asian Football Confederation, Australia has diligently developed important connections across the spectrum, including the sporting, political, cultural, administrative and development spheres.

“The investment by Ledman shows those links have delivered a dynamic relationship built on trust and mutually beneficial activities. Ledman’s move is a signpost towards our future in the fastest growing football region in the world. This demonstrates the strength and growing international status of the Hyundai A-League.”

Newcastle finished the 2015-16 A-League season in eighth place.

Ledman’s takeover of the Jets is the latest in a string of investments in football clubs from Chinese businesses. A group of American and Chinese investors last week acquired a controlling 80-per-cent stake in French Ligue 1 club Nice, while earlier this month Italian Serie A side Inter Milan was taken over by the Suning Holdings Group conglomerate.