Kenneth Huang, or Huang Jianhua to go by his Chinese name, has been linked with a consortium who are apparently attempting to buy Liverpool Football Club, but who exactly is he? Huang had the unique honour of becoming China’s first graduate to work in the New York Stock Exchange in the 1980s, and has developed an interest in Western culture during his time in the United States. After graduating in 1984 with a BA degree from Zhongshan University in Guangzhou, his hometown, he moved to study in the US at Columbia University before moving to New York to complete his Masters degree at St Johns. It was when he was at New York University though, while completing some MBA financial management courses, that he began to work at the Stock Exchange.
From here on, Huang became an exceptionally accomplished business executive, building relationships in his native China and using his connections to great effect. He set up many international investments and financing projects between Chinese and American companies, partnering with many of China’s large state-owned enterprises in the deals, and making large profits by benefiting from the economic boom in China. One of his crucial partners in America was with one Les Alexander, and this is where Huang’s connections in sport become very interesting. Alexander is the owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets and back in 2002, Huang worked with Alexander to bring Chinese Basketball superstar Yao Ming to the NBA to play for Alexander’s team.
Huang’s involvement in US Sport doesn’t end there though. He seems to have enthusiasm for many American sports including basketball and baseball. He uses his company SportsPro Media China to link Chinese sponsors and US Sports giants, including baseball team New York Yankees where he owns a percentage of the franchise with American businessman Marc Ganis. He has also brought much needed multi-year sponsorship deals for basketball teams Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers in recent years, as well helping to boost the NBA’s profile in China through pre-season tours. Early this year, Huang bought a 15% stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers leading to speculation in the US that Yao Ming would move from the Houston Rockets to join NBA all-star Lebron James at Cleveland. James has subsequently left to join the Miami Heat.
As well as being involved with sport in America, Huang has started to promote basketball in his native China, buying Jilin Northeast Tigers and purchasing a Basketball league in his home country (the National Basketball League) to rival the present Chinese Basketball Association. On top of this, he announced last year a youth Baseball league in the country, showing that his enthusiasm for sport is wide ranging. Huang it seems is determined to make both sports as popular as possible in China.
Huang continues to excel in business too and recently set up a new business venture called Rocket Capital with Les Alexander and San Antonio Spurs former owner Billy Joe “Red” McCombs. Together (with Alexander & McCombs billions and Huang’s connections with China’s state industries) they have begun to collect an assortment of companies, investing in one of China’s largest automakers Brilliance Auto, as well as in the China Railway Group, China Sinoma International Engineering, Uni President Enterprises Corp, Xinjiang XinXin Mining Industry, and Anta Sports Products, the last of which now sponsor’s Alexander’s Houston Rockets. Rocket Capital also has invested large amounts into Hong Kong’s private equity market, to the amount of $200 million in 2007 alone.
The two things you need to know about Huang then, are that although he is wealthy, it is his backers that really hold the billions. The second fact is that not only will he bring wealthy backers, his connections with China’s state owned companies mean exceptionally lucrative sponsorship deals from the Far East. If Huang’s consortium does takeover, expect many pre-season tours of China, but also keep in mind that Liverpool maybe the first football club to crack the highly lucrative market in China. Huang already has a track record of doing this, tying Anta to Houston Rockets and more recently Tsing Tsao to the Cleveland Cavaliers. His passion for sport is undoubted with his deal-brokering in both Basketball and Baseball, and he now looks like turning his attention to football and Liverpool FC.
Follow us on twitter @live4Liverpool
Live4Liverpool is recruiting columnists. For further info contact the site editor at firstname.lastname@example.org