Singapore billionaire Lim new owner of Spanish club Valencia
SINGAPORE—Singapore billionaire Peter Lim, the new owner of Valencia, has realized a long-held dream by buying a top European football club — and will hope for better fortunes than some of his fellow Asian investors.
Publicity-shy Lim, a fishmonger’s son who made his wealth by investing in a palm oil company, is an avid Manchester United fan who nonetheless was linked to a bid for their arch-rivals Liverpool in 2010.
On Saturday, patrons of the Valencia Foundation unanimously approved 60-year-old Lim’s proposal to take a 70.4 percent stake in the debt-stricken Spanish club, which twice reached the Champions League final.
Valencia’s hierarchy has been looking for investors since principal creditor Bankia refused to refinance the combined 306 million euro ($530 million) debt the club and its foundation has with the bank.
Lim has an estimated $2.4 billion fortune and owns a string of Manchester United-themed bars in Asia. The father of two is married to former actress Cherie Lim.
With 11-storey home in Singapore’s plush Orchard Road district, according to reports, and a fleet of 25 Ferraris, Lim appears to have the means to prop up the six-time La Liga champions.
Valencia fans may be forgiven for some trepidation, however, with clubs experiencing mixed fortunes after being snapped up by foreign owners.
In the most extreme case, ex-Hong Kong hairdresser-turned-Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung was jailed for six years for money-laundering in March.
The club was relegated from the English Premier League in 2011 and only survived dropping to England’s third tier on the last day of the season earlier this month.
Similarly, Indian poultry firm Venky’s bought Blackburn Rovers for 23 million pounds in November 2010. Amid a stream of negative headlines, the club followed Birmingham out of the Premier League in 2012.
Malaysian tycoon Vincent Tan provoked anger from fans of Welsh club Cardiff City, nicknamed “the Bluebirds”, when he changed their kit color from blue to red, saying it was a luckier color.
Cardiff, after winning promotion to the Premier League last year under Tan, have now been relegated again in a season marked by a row over the dismissal of their manager Malky Mackay.
And Malaysian budget airline impresario Tony Fernandes has also seen his plans for a revamp at Queens Park Rangers stumble, after the London club dropped out of the Premier League last year.
Part-time taxi driver
On a more positive note, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has turned Chelsea into one of Europe’s top clubs and Manchester City, owned by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour, are the Premier League champions and estimated as the highest paid sports team worldwide.
Lim’s proposal intends to clear Valencia’s debts and invest heavily in a playing squad that barely managed to break into the top half of La Liga this season, but reached the Europa League semi-finals.
“I am very glad to have been selected the winning bidder after a rigorous selection process. Fans of Valencia Football Club can finally see an end to months of uncertainty,” Lim said in a statement late Saturday.
Lim was educated at the Raffles Institution, Singapore’s top secondary school, and has a degree in accountancy from the University of Western Australia. He took on part-time jobs as a taxi driver, a cook and waiter to finance his way through university.
In one of his rare media interviews, Lim said his first job as an accountant lasted only three months and he did some tax consultancy work before cutting his teeth in the world of stock-broking, where he began building his massive fortune.
Lim’s success as a stockbroker earned him the moniker “Remisier King”, from the Singaporean term for the profession. He advises young investors to look at the prospects of a sector before buying stock, adding that investments should be for the long term.
“You have to invest with a longer-term mindset. You buy a good stock, leave it there for 10 years. Come 10 years, this dollar can be many, many multiples,” he said in a 2007 interview.
US magazine Forbes on its website estimates Lim’s fortune at $2.4 billion and ranks him number 739 among the world’s billionaires. Forbes ranked him the 10th richest person in Singapore in 2013.
Lim rarely gives media interviews, but friends have been quoted as saying he remains humble despite his wealth and is heavily involved in charity work.
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