Thai tycoon buys English football club for $64m

Thai tycoon buys English football club for $64m
Sheffield Wednesday's players reacts after Manchester City scored their second goal during their FA Cup third round match at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, northern England, January 4, 2015.

The allure of owning an English football team is a powerful temptation for some of Thailand's super wealthy, as businessman Dejphon Chansiri's takeover of second-tier Sheffield Wednesday has demonstrated.

Dejphon's acquisition of the English Championship club came less than six months after a Thai consortium led by Khunying Sasima Srivikorn took over control of the Sheffield-based outfit's league rivals, Reading.

The purchase of the two teams, coupled with duty-free retailer King Power's ownership of top-flight outfit Leicester City, means Thais have taken over three English clubs since Thaksin Shinawatra's brief reign at Manchester City in 2007.

Having clinched his takeover of one of the oldest English clubs this week, Dejphon promised to lead them to the promised land, the Premier League, where they last played 15 years ago.

His family owns Thai Union Group, the world's largest producer of canned tuna.

"I am very excited at the prospect of taking over control from Milan [Mandaric, the football club's chairman]," Dejphon was quoted as saying on the club's website after watching Wednesday's midweek goalless league draw at its home stadium, Hillsborough.

"I believe this club has huge potential and I can assure all our supporters that I will be working extremely hard to bring the success that I already sense from my short time in your city our supporters so desperately crave.

"My son Att, who was a mascot at the recent Blackpool game, is passionate about football and I know will be my inspiration in this project.

"I have made the same promise to him as I do our supporters. He will not let me forget this until we are back in the Premier League."

The takeover brought an end to Mandaric's four-year reign as owner of the cash-strapped club, which recorded a 3.7-million-pound (S$7.5 million) loss in the 2012-13 season.

The outgoing Serbian believes he has left the club in "safe" hands.

"I'm very happy and proud of what I have done for Sheffield Wednesday," Mandaric told BBC Radio Sheffield. "I promised that when I left I would have secured their financial future, and I can look the fans in the eye and say that I have done that.

"They [Dejphon's team] have a big desire to go to the Premier League and they want to put money into the club. They're not here to stay in the Championship.

"I didn't sell the club for the money or because I have to leave, I sold it because these people are more aggressive financially and they will do the job."

Thai Union Frozen Products (TUF) spokeswoman tried to distance the company from Sheffield's takeover, saying the acquisition was Dejphon's personal investment.

Dejphon is a younger brother of Thiraphong Chansiri, president and chief executive of the group, but he is not involved with its management and his stake in the public-listed company is less than 5 per cent.

"Khun Thiraphong has said TUF would not invest in businesses that are unrelated to the group's businesses," the spokeswoman said.

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