As I’m sure you’ve all heard, Liverpool Football Club are currently in the process of a board takeover, and an unknown Chinese businessman has been splashed out over the back pages of the English press over the past few weeks.
But who exactly is Kenny Huang? The Chinese-born US citizen is a businessperson that may have only entered the consciousness of football fans in the past few weeks, but will be a much more familiar name to American sports fans.
He has spent the last few years attempting to increase the profile of American sports in China, making marketing deals with NBA side Cleveland Cavaliers and MLB side the New York Yankees. One of his primary business partners in the USA is Leslie Alexander, owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, and Huang played a pivotal role in the deal that brought the 7’6” Chinese basketball superstar Yao Ming to the basketball side. He took the baseball World Series winners New York Yankees on a tour of China in February, in an attempt to garner interest in baseball over there, and has recently expressed an interest in purchasing an NFL team.
Huang was born in Guangzhou in southern China, and took a keen interest in sports from an early age. He attended Guangzhou’s Zhongshan University to study Japanese, moving to New York in 1985 to complete a master’s degree at St. John’s University. He claims that he benefited from an economic collapse in Japan in 1991, using his language skills to become an investment adviser to wealthy Japanese businessmen. He continued to live in America (New York and Florida), and during the preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, invited Chinese officials to the United States to visit their sports facilities. Huang’s business knowledge and networking skills have enabled him to become successful in both the US and China.
Back in his homeland, Huang is pushing for a renovation of the Chinese sports system, including the development of its own professional sports leagues: an ambitious project given the government’s strict control of Chinese sports programmes. His attempted acquisition of Liverpool would represent a first expansion outside of China or the US. Liverpool claimed last week that six bids were being considered, but did not go into any further detail. Middle Eastern and Indian investors have supposedly registered interest in the club. Huang declined to be interviewed about his interest in the Merseyside club. The Times claimed last week that the sovereign wealth fund of China, China Investment Corps (CIC), was financing Huang’s bid. A spokesman for the CIC, however, denies this.
Huang certainly has the business acumen to do a job for Liverpool, and his interest in sport appears genuine (unlike the current regime at the club). Liverpool fans will have to sit tight for the time being, however, with no concrete offer on the table. Huang purportedly now has competition from the ruling family of Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates.
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