La Liga: Chinese billionaire buys stake in Atletico Madrid

Image: Vicente Calderon Stadium, home of Atletico Madrid

A Chinese billionaire has bought a 20 percent stake in Spanish football club Atletico Madrid.

Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda Group, paid £34million in the deal which gives the company a seat on the club's board of directors.

Wanda is one of China's largest, most influential property and entertainment companies with a growing footprint in Europe including significant investment in the UK.

The deal marks the first time a Chinese company has invested in a top tier European football club.

I think it will take three to five years for Wanda to become a household name in the UK.
Wang Jianlin, Wanda CEO

Atletico Madrid's CEO Gil Marin and president Enrique Cerezo travelled to Beijing to sign the contract with Wanda's Cultural Industry group director general  Zhang Ming.

At the signing ceremony at a hotel in one Wanda's massive shopping plazas, Wang described the deal as a 'golden opportunity'.

"This investment will not only provide a golden opportunity for young Chinese players sent overseas by Wanda to be selected by leading European football clubs, it will also strengthen the quality of Chinese football and narrow the gap between the rest of the world."

Mr Wang is an avid football fan and Wanda has a long affiliation with the sport. He established China's first professional football club in the company's home town, Dalian in 1994.


The club, Dalian Wanda FC, was a hugely successful Chinese team throughout the late 1990s, and still holds a Chinese record of 55 matches without defeat.

In 2000, Wanda sold Dalian Wanda FC and pulled out of Chinese football after Mr Wang publicly denounced the country's match fixing scandal. His company returned to football in 2011 in a sponsorship deal with the Chinese Super League.

The deal with Atletico Madrid is designed to help develop Chinese football which remains well behind the sport elsewhere in the world.

"What we are doing is to raise the level of the Chinese game." Mr Wang said.

Wanda are not alone in seeing benefit in trying to raise the profile of the Chinese game. David Beckham is China's first Football Ambassador and has made several promotional trips to the country where he is an icon. 

Wang Jinalin, who spoke exclusively to Sky News about the state of China's economy is China's 4th richest person with an estimated wealth of £12bn.

The company is known to have been looking to diversify away from the real-estste market to insulate itself against a slowdown in China.

Wanda's investments in the UK include a £1bn stake in Sunseeker Yachts. The company's UK arm, Wanda One (UK) Limited, is overseeing a massive development in London's Nine Elms district.

In his exclusive interview with Sky News, Mr Wang said Wanda would be a household name in the UK within three to five years.

"We invested over $3bn in Australia last year and have three projects there. In UK we have two projects right now. It usually takes a really long time to get a new project or merger and acquisition in UK. We are negotiating some projects right now... I think it will take three to five years to become a household name in UK." he said.

China's investment in the UK... provides more job opportunities for British people. I don't think (Chinese investment in UK) is a bad thing." he said.

Around Sky