Rumoured Liverpool takeover bidder Kenny Huang is a difficult figure to research. He has fingers in many pies as they say but he never seems to be the man investing in any deal he is involved in. He is always the go between potential sponsor/investors and companies. The same could be said for his long time friend Marc Ganis. Ganis talked to the Associated Press yesterday setting out Huang’s takeover plans for Liverpool FC:
“We haven’t submitted a formal proposal but we submitted the broad parameters of what a proposal would look like to see if it would be welcomed, and it was.”
Okay, this is where it gets slightly complicated. Huang is co-founder and chairman of two entirely different investment companies QSL Sports Ltd and SportsCorps China. At QSL, Huang has had rich business partners in Adrian Cheng and now with Guang Yang to help broker deals between American sport giants and Chinese sponsors. At SportCorps, co-founded with Marc Ganis, Huang has also used the company to broker deals between American sports teams and Chinese companies. To make it seem less confusing, I will from here on separate the dealings of QSL and SportsCorp China.
At QSL, Huang has mostly been involved with the NBA Basketball team the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the help of Huang, Cleveland agreed a multi-million dollar sponsorship deal with Chinese beer firm Tsing Tsao. To promote ties between China and the Cavaliers further, it was rumoured last year that QSL were to buy a 15% stake in the NBA team. It was hoped that the strengthening of ties between China an the NBA could improve the profile of the sport in the Asian country, and NBA commissioner David Stern believed Huang’s 15% stake would be a “modest step” into worldwide investment for Basketball and a “logical second step” in promoting the sport in China. Marc Ganis at the time, who was not involved in the deal said that Huang’s attempt to buy a stake in the Cavaliers was “creating a platform in sports and entertainment that will include investments in the United States and business activities in China. If this deal is approved, there will be much more attention paid to the Cavaliers in China.” The motivation for the deal at the time was to keep LeBron James at the Cavaliers to help improve the player’s individual marketability in China.
The deal, like the Cavaliers attempts to keep James however, fell through and no such stake was acquired by QSL, despite the Associated Press stating the deal had been done. In a statement in April, QSL stated that they had not acquired the 15% stake in the Cavaliers and a month later Huang’s partner Adrian Cheng left the company to be replaced by Guang Yang. QSL has however invested millions into China’s youth baseball league and has 15 year management rights to the league.
Now let’s turn our attentions to SportsCorps China. Based mostly in the US, it is affectively Huang’s investment arm in the States, guided by one Marc Ganis. Based in Chicago, Ganis has been involved in at least two dozen sports facility projects including the new Yankee Stadium, Heinz Field, Toyota Center, and the Verizon Center. The most significant of these is his involvement in building the $1.3billion Yankee Ballpark opened last year. Ganis has been a sporting consultant with Yankees for many years and has used his connections with Huang to help the New York baseball team to acquire Chinese sponsorship. Back in 2007, Huang and Ganis helped the Yankees get sponsorship from a Chinese dairy firm Yili Group and it was no coincidence when in the same year Huang and the Yankees announced a deal to help out the Chinese Baseball Association in improving its players and coaches; a way to return the favour.
Only earlier this week, SportsCorps China helped the Yankees seal a four year deal with Taiwan based instant noodle maker Uni-President in exchange for the Yankees sponsoring Huang’s QSL China Baseball League, and a donation to the QSL Youth Sports Development Foundation — Huang’s sports charity. On top of SportsCorps China’s connections with the Yankees, they have connections with another NBA team in the Houston Rockets. Owned by Les Alexander, a business partner of Huang in investment company Rocket Capital, SportCorps helped the Rockets attain a sponsorship deal with leading Chinese Sports manufacturer Anta Sports Group. Alexander was advised by the Ganis to invest a large stake in the business and it was a gamble that paid off when his $30million investment in the company increased by 42% when Anta went public in July 2007. Ganis said to the New York Times:
“I wind up being a bridge for those activities there (in China) for people in the U.S. who want be more involved.”
So what can we conclude from all of these business dealings? Huang and Ganis are most likely intermediaries. For who we don’t know, but let’s hope it doesn’t turn out to be a charade like the deal for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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