The owner of Hangzhou Greentown football club, Song Weiping, has revealed that he is set to sell a 49 percent stake in his club to Jack Ma’s Alibaba corporation—owner of successful online marketplace Taobao.
Greentown had been thought to be pulling out of football entirely, with Song reportedly having invested over 2 billion RMB (240 million Euro) in the club over the past 10 years. However, he now insists he will continue to be the majority shareholder.
Ma and Song have previously linked on projects to develop football in the Zhejiang area and it would appear that Ma has come to the rescue once more following the Greentown owner’s appeal for more investment in the region’s football.
Song took Hangzhou to the AFC Champions League in 2011, but has been forced to cut back his investment in recent times. The Greentown club, though, boast some of the Chinese Super League’s best younger players with the likes of Shi Ke, Feng Gang and Xie Pengfei, all born in 1993, starting on a weekly basis.
Ma’s entrance into football is creating understandable headlines given his prominence in the world of Chinese business. The 49-year-old internet entrepreneur has made his Alibaba and Taobao brands into two of China’s most important commercial enterprises, while his Alipay online payment system is also a market leader.
It has been revealed in the Chinese media on Friday that it was Xu Jiayin, owner of the Evergrande group, who encouraged Ma to join him in investing in football during a meeting between the pair a year ago.
His personal worth was valued at $12.1 billion last year, while the Alibaba group posted revenue figures of $7.5 billion in 2013 alone. Whether or not his arrival in football sees Hangzhou Greentown rival some of their peers in spending remains to be seen, but it is sure to be a massive boost for the CSL and future of football in Zhejiang.