Southampton Dealt Takeover Blow as Chinese-Led Consortium Walk Away From Deal to Purchase Club

Tom Power
90Min

​Southampton's chances of becoming the latest club to be backed by a Chinese-led consortium have all but ended after the would-be buyers pulled out of a deal to buy them.

Lander Sports, who make their money by building world-class stadia in their homeland, were said to be in the process of taking out a controlling 80% stake in the Saints' holding firm St. Mary's Football Group.

However, in a statement on Sunday night to the stock market (via ​Reuters UK) the group explained why they had performed a remarkable U-turn on purchasing Southampton off current owner Katharina Liebherr, citing that the company would have had to gain approval from numerous governing bodies including China's foreign exchange regulator.

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The statement read: "Whether the company can eventually complete the acquisition of the target firm's shares remains uncertain.

"To keep to principle of prudence, ensure the company's development remains normal and to safeguard the majority of investors' interests, the company has decided to end this major asset restructuring."

A deal had reportedly been in place between Liebherr and Lander Sports - led by Mr Xiang Liang Liu - to allow the latter to acquire the controlling stake in Southampton, even though the fee that was thrashed out between the parties was never made public.

However, after a number of other Chinese investors had shelled out over £2.3bn in overseas football projects - including the acquisitions of clubs such as Aston Villa, West Brom and Inter Milan - law enforcers in China had called on the country to rein in its "irrational" spending power and instead fork out cash to rebuild its own infrastructure and football clubs.

The two sides had allegedly been in talks since November 2016, while Liebherr had been chairman of the South coast club since the passing of her father Markus in 2010.

Back in January Liebherr had released her own statement (via ​Sky Sports) detailing her reasons behind the decision to sell the club to Lander Sports.

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She said: "Please understand that I can only make limited comments regarding this process but I can assure you that any steps we do take will be in the best interests of the club. 

"A potential partnership would need to clear multiple approvals and fulfil strict criteria before being confirmed.

"The Premier League is increasingly competitive; we need to keep moving forward and look to new markets for commercial growth, innovation and to share our journey. Together we have had many years of progression and success, and ensuring this continues is the main focus of any possible partnership."

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