Sometimes we get a little bit behind at keeping you up to date here at CST. Sorry about that, but below are a few of the top recent stories:
Huang and QSL never made a formal bid for Liverpool FC
Kenny Huang, Marc Ganis and their company QSL are completely out of the Liverpool FC buying discussion. And accoring to a recent report in the Telegraph, they never made a formal bid. QSL seems to be blaming the deal's evaporation on all the publicity, claiming it caused their key investor to walk away. Hmm… A Chinese investor thought it was going to quietly buy an English Premier League team? Huang's now 0-2 on these big-league bids, and he was confident enough about the first one to name his company after it (QSL stands for Qishi Lianmeng, Cavalier Group, a name chosen while the company was hoping to buy a stake in the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers). With these high-profile fails in two of the globe's biggest sports leagues, he's sure to be viewed more skeptically in the future.
Yi Jianlian eludes NBA China's grasp, again
Every October, two NBA teams come to play exhibition games in a few Chinese cities. Last year, the Denver Nuggets played the Indiana Pacers. In 2008, the Milwaukee Bucks played the Golden State Warriors—a matchup that would have brought Yi Jianlian back home to play, if he hadn't been traded to the New Jersey Nets on the eve of the 2008 NBA Draft.
Yi's slipped through the NBA marketing department's fingers yet again. This spring, the NBA scheduled the Houston Rockets to play the New Jersey Nets, in what would have been an historic opportunity to see China's two current NBA players go head-to-head in Beijing and Guangzhou. But the Nets sent Yi to the Washington Wizards, so Yao Ming, if he's actually back on the court by then, will be the only Chinese national in the game.
Right now, Yi's busy in Turkey, where he's leading the Chinese national team at the FIBA World Championships. China is 1-1 with a loss to Greece and a win over Cote d'Ivoire (who are sponsored by Chinese basketball apparel brand Peak). He's averaging 26 and 11. In the next game, August 31, China faces Puerto Rico and Yi has a chance to avenge his dismal 3-for-15, 11-point performance against them at Madison Square Garden two weeks ago.
MLB still swingin'
Despite its sport being dropped from the Olympics, Major League Baseball has not given up on China. The Washington Post just ran a great update (with some nice photos) on the MLB's China activities, which are largely focused on a training academy in Wuxi, where players learn the game under the direction of Rick Dell, who has been key to MLB's Asia efforts for years now. Interesting takeaway from this piece: It implies that the teenagers training in Wuxi now are being groomed with the hopes not that they will make the big leauges, but that they will train the players from the next generation who will.
Starbury to return, with more shoes
Stephon Marbury's coming back to Taiyuan this year, to play for the CBA's Shanxi Zhongyu, with whom he's signed a two-year contract with an option for a third. This time, Marbury's taking a more strategic approach to marketing his Starbury shoes in China, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Yi Jianlian in a Bullets jersey image: Hi.baidu.com
Tags: English Premier League, FIBA World Championships, Huang Jianhua, Kenny Huang, Liverpool FC, MLB, NBA, QSL, Stephon Marbury, Yi Jianlian
Kenny Huang buying Liverpool FC? Certainly not on his own. Chinese government buying Liverpool? Very unlikely. This story already has too many unnamed sources, but I have to add one more: This morning I spoke to someone close to the CIC, who says that people there who would be involved in such a deal if it were in the works, and that person "have never heard of Huang Jianhua."
As Gady Epstein, Forbes' man in Beijing, explains, it seems to make no sense for CIC to get involved in English soccer. The CIC's job is to make money, and despite being high-passion and high-profile organizations, soccer clubs are not high-profit. But China Daily reports that over the past two weeks, CIC has divested almost precisely enough of its investments to raise the 351.4 million pounds that The Guardian says is a rumored sale price for Liverpool. Matt Scott at The Guardian suggests that CIC is interested in Liverpools' TV rights and is speculating that the team can improve its finances by better leveraging media. There is also wide speculation that the club is undervalued, meaning that whoever buys it could possibly make a quick profit reselling it soon.
Huang clearly has interest in buying the club—or, more accurately, helping an investor or a group of investors make the purchase. He's no Mikhail Prokhorov, the self-made Russian billionaire and new majority owner of the New Jersey Nets. He needs other people's money to get this done.
As for the CIC/Huang connection, Epstein wisely guesses that someone got wind of a relatioship Huang has or says he has with CIC, and blew it out of proportion. But I'm inclined to think that Huang leaked the information himself. Though he shies away from direct media contact, he likes to manipulate the media. When he held a rare press conference in Beijing last year to announce his partnership with the Chinese Baseball Association, as reported here, the whole affair seemed targeted at potential sponosors who could help fund the Chinese Youth Baseball League, for which his company, QSL, had no actual plans. Also, Huang is a broker who seems unsatisfied with hanging in the background—he wants to be the face of the deals that he's involved in, and self-promotes accordingly.
Could it be that he leaked the Liverpool story to generate some buzz, and signal to potential investors that he was in a position to help them bid for Liverpool? Or maybe he learned that CIC was liquidating in preparation to make a bid, and he hopes to bluff his way into representing them.
Whatever is going on, Liverpool fans should know soon who their team's next owner will be, as the current owners are trying to get the deal done by next week.
Tags: Huang Jianhua, Kenny Huang, Liverpool FC, Premier League, QSL, soccer
But Major League Baseball clearly hasn't given up—the league recently announced that the season opener between the Yankees and Red Sox will broadcast live in China this year, for the first time ever. The game takes place at 8 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, April 4, which is 8 a.m. the next day in China. That's not exactly prime time, but Monday is a national holiday in China, so people should at least be home. And as the Hollywood Reporter so nonchalantly points out, thanks to the prevalence of cremation in the space-starved nation, few people have grave sites to visit this Tomb Sweeping Day, a holiday for honoring deceased relatives.
With no deal to air games on CCTV-5, the national sports channel that has a near monopoly on the market, MLB is taking an alternative route to broader exposure in China—agreements with a bundle of the country's biggest provincial TV stations. The league has added Chongqing TV and Shaanxi TV to existing contracts with Guangdong TV, Shenzhen TV and Jiangsu TV. Guangdong TV will air This Week in Baseball, Championship Season games and the World Series, according to BizofBaseball.com.
For the tiny number of diehard baseball fans in China, MLB last year made great improvements to its local Web site, MLB.cn including high-quality free streaming of games. The league's youth development program, Play Ball, continues this year with programs in 120 schools in five cities.
Paralleling the league's efforts, the New York Yankees act independently to push their own brand in China. A few small Yankees stores market pinstripes inside big-city malls, and the team works closely with Kenny Huang of QSL, which has an agreement with the Chinese Baseball Association to develop youth baseball. QSL arranged for the Yankees to tour China earlier this year to do photo ops with young people and the Commissioner's Trophy.
NYT: Yankee Emissaries seek fans in China
Tags: baseball, Boston Red Sox, CCTV-5, Kenny Huang, MLB, New York Yankees, QSL, TV
Yesterday, Reuters reported that Huang's deal fell through and that another group, led by another Chinese investor, one Albert Hung, is now buying that stake from Camelot Venture Group and David Katzman, former Cavs vice chairman.
But apparently Huang is not out of the picture. "Mr. Kenny Huang and Mr. Albert Hung are partners in the same company," a spokesperson for Huang told China Sports Today Tuesday. "Kenny will focus more with his investment in China while Mr. Hung will deal more with the Cavs matters going forward."
It would have been pretty embarrassing for Huang if he'd been completely squeezed out of the deal. When he made the baseball announcement in Beijing, he was calling his company QSL Sports, short for Qishi Lianmeng (骑士联盟), or Cavalier Alliance.
According to Reuters, Hung and company are paying cash and the deal should be finalized by the end of the year. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena have already signed a multi-year sponsorship deal with Tsing Tsao, China's ubiquitous domestic beer brand. The story doesn't explain what role Huang had in that deal, saying only that the parties signed it "With Huang standing over their shoulders."
The Cavs purchase is interesting and the other moves that Huang has made in Chinese sports—the baseball program, the CBA team–suggest his involvement with the Cavs is just meant to be one piece in a future sports empire.
In the above-mentioned Plain Dealer story, Brian Windhorst is clearly a big-time believer in Huang. The story opens: "Kenny Huang is a man who understands." The next paragraph lists Huang's Trans-Pacific credentials, followed by this:
"When he sees the Cavaliers and LeBron James he thinks big, grand long-term ideas. Then he executes them."
Slurp, slurp. What big, grand long-term ideas have been executed here? Windhorst finds Huang impressive that he cites him as a source for gauging the relative popularity of NBA teams in China:
"Huang said interest in the Cavs has exploded in China and they have surpassed the Houston Rockets, who have Chinese national hero Yao Ming, in popularity."
We're not saying that Huang Jianhua isn't likely to have interesting things up his sleeve, and big-time plans for the Chinese sports market. And we're not saying that the Plain Dealer hasn't done some decent reporting on Huang (witness this article from last May). But it's a little early to crown him MVP of Sino-U.S. deal-making.
Chinese investors buying stake in Cavs
Huang bets on baseball
NBA.com: Cavs new part owners interested in signing Yao
QSL's China baseball partnership still in very early planning stages
Tags: Albert Hung, baseball, basketball, Huang Jianhua, Kenny Huang, Lebron James, NBA, QSL, Yao Ming