Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin bought a 20 percent stake in Spanish league champions Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, his company announced, the first mainland Chinese investment in a top European football club.
The deal was worth 45 million euros ($52 million) the real estate tycoon’s Wanda Group said on a verified account on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo.
It will provide “all-round support for the development of Chinese football”, the statement said, adding that both sides will spend 30 million euros on a youth training centre in Madrid to foster young talent, including players from China.
Wang is number 42 on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s richest people, with a fortune estimated at $18 billion, and was named as China’s second-wealthiest man last year. The flotation of one of his firm’s subsidiaries may have since propelled him into first place.
He is a diehard football fan and Wanda became a household name across China after Wang bought a Dalian football club in 1994, renamed it after the firm and transformed it into the strongest team in China.
But Wang sold Dalian Wanda in 2000 after he became disillusioned with widespread corruption in the Chinese game at that time.
More recently Wanda has been looking to diversify away from the real estate sector — which is facing considerable challenges in China — by investing in an ever-expanding portfolio of companies including cinema chain AMC and yacht builder Sunseeker.
Last year he paid 265 million euros to buy the Edificio Espana, an iconic skyscraper in central Madrid, from Santander bank.