Gao Sells Controlling Interest In Lander Sports ! What Does It Mean To Saints !
Monday, 18th Feb 2019 11:36
Gao Jisheng has sold some of his business interest's in China but how will this affect Southampton Football Club.
There has been a lot of speculation amidst Saints supporters after news emerged that Saints owner Gao Jisheng had sold his controlling interest in Lander Sports, however that does not mean it will have any major effect on the club, Gao as Markus Liebherr originally set out to do has run the club to operate under it's own steam rather than be propped up by putting money in which in football are always scheduled as loans.
The original story headlines in the Daily Echo was positioned to set alarm bells ringing in the supporters, "Gao loses control of Lander Sports" seemed to suggest that Gao had been ousted from the company for some undisclosed reason that Saints supporters could speculate on.
The truth behind the story was that Gao had sold some of his holdings therefore not making him the majority shareholder anymore but still retaining a large share of the company
At the start of this season articles on football club owners suggested that Gao was the 14th richest in the Premier League witha fortune of 1,074,640,000 that's One Billion, 74 million & 640 thousand for those who are not numerical, that wealth will have been increased by the money received for the shares sold.
To put that in perspective he is about 230 million behind Farhad Moshri at Everton, 800 million behind John Henry at Liverpool and 2.5 billion behind the Glazers at Manchester United who are said to be the 8th richest in the Premier League.
So having crunched the numbers what does that mean to Saints, the answer is very little at least in the short term, as mentioned when Markus Liebherr took over the club 10 years ago he had a very clear blueprint and that was that he wanted the club to be self sustaining, that was obscured a little during the Cortese years when our then CEO made boasts about five year plans to be regular Champion's League contenders, what Cortese failed to say was how he was going to do it when he was up against rival clubs with owners who were not only richer than Liebherr but had a far different business model.
After Liebherr's death in 2010 his family had to wrest control back from the CEO who by 2014 seemed to be running it as his own personal fifedom and loan money to the club to enable it to cover debts being run up including a training ground well over budget and poor signings for big money Gaston Ramirez and Osvaldo to name but two.
Since then the club has reverted back to Markus's original plan and the this season and last it has been the most successful period in the club's history for over three decades in terms of League position.
But football has changed greatly since we returned to the Premier League and as Liverpool, Spurs and literally everyone apart from Manchester City have found, it doesn't matter how big you are and how many times you turn down offers and say a player is staying, if they want to go you can't stop them.
But I diverse, going back to Gao he owns Saints personally through a UK based company called Lander who are completely seperate from the similar named Lander Sports. This means that things go on and it's business as usual at the club, presumably Gao hasn't changed his stance towards Saints and Lander Sports have no connection.
Gao made his investment through his own money not Lander Sports, yes initially he was going to do it via Lander Sports, but due to issues with the Chinese Government restricting money going out of the country he did it himself, he may have had to borrow some of the money short term, but that suggests that he is financially secure as otherwise he would be unable to borrow a large amount, most of us would struggle to get an unsecured personal loan of more than around £20,000, loans of substantial amounts are not given away to anybody.
The main gripe of Saints supporters has always been that Gao has said little about his intentions, that is not strictly true in that Ralph Krueger has given several detailed interviews earlier this season laying out the plans, but for some that is not good enough they seem to think that it needs to come from the horse's mouth from Gao itself.
That is because in the past we have had the likes of Lowe and Cortese prepared to have a high press profile, but neither were the owners of the club, they like Krueger were merely employee's although in Lowe's case he did have a reasonable shareholding.
So if Markus Liebherr and indeed Katrina Liebherr left it down to those they had tasked with running the club to speak about their intentions, why should Gao be any different.
Indeed how many actual owners of Premier League clubs could we all name and I would say there are very few if any we would actually recognise in the street, football is big business these days, why would you expect the owner of a football club to make announcements, you wouldn't expect the owner(s) of say Mark's & Spencer to give an interview to say they were opening a new store in Southampton, they like Saints have CEO's and PR people to do that sort of thing.
This is called corporate governance and therefore the fact that Gao says little is not something to worry about and more than at any other company or indeed at any other time in our history as a football club.
The Daily Echo suggest that although Ralph Krueger has responded to their questions that his answer lacks detail they say that he has insisted that Gao has made a significant investment by buying the club, which underlines his belief in it, and therefore supporters should have faith with regards why he has bought it, how it has been funded and what he intends for it.
That club were informed of the Lander developments ahead of time and were told Gao was simply restricting his business portfolio and remained committed to Saints.
That is a reasonable response, why would Gao need to announce to anyone that he is selling some of his business holdings especially when they are unconnected to Saints. Krueger is right, Saints remain unaffected because they are not reliant on Gao's money they are self sustaining, nothing changes on a day to day basis.
Of course it could change if Gao decided he wanted to sell up, but if he just wanted to asset strip or money launder as some have suggested then why would he have sanctioned the money from the Virgil Van Dijk transfer to be reinvested in full back into the playing squad and yes it was invested in full, buying a player is more than just the transfer fee there are signing on fees and agents fees on top.
The Daily Echo also seem to try to make play of the fact that Krueger in the past has used the argument that Gao is a very private man as to why he says little.
The paper claims that looks increasingly unsustainable, given not only is he the owner of a high-profile Premier League football club who attends matches but has also recently given a journalist access to his family for an interview about other matters and last week had a public visit to Westminster to speak with Eastleigh MP Mims Davies, which was tweeted about.
This is tabloid journalism at it's worst trying to covertly put thoughts in it's readers heads that there is something going on.
This is hardly being pictured falling out of a nightclub with a supermodel or going on a chat show, the meeting was tweeted about not by Gao but by Davies herself who said.
"Yesterday I caught up with owner @SouthamptonFC Mr Gao in #Westminster to hear of his plans for club. Positive & productive meeting about its importance to the City & area by remaining focussed on being a thriving, community led, inclusive club strongly connected with its fans"
So despite the Echo'c cynical words it seems that Gao has visited a local MP privately and told her about his plans for the club going forward, why has no one put the headline "Gao Gives Positive News About Saints"
Gao could well be trying to up his public profile in England, as a Chinese citizen with business abroad he is watched closely by his government, he could not for instance just leave the country and live abroad without their permission, a higher profile in the UK would be good for him in this situation.
There are many who have already voiced their opinion on social media about Gao, some have demanded he leave the club, but what could that attain, the club is not run by Gao, he doesn't make day to day decisions and he certainly didn't stick his arm up in the penalty area at Burnley in the final minute.
If Gao suddenly lost interest then unlike say Portsmouth who were heading for bankruptcy as their owner asset stripped them and refused to pay the wage bill we could continue to run on a day to day basis and we could survive and flourish in the Premier League, we have done in the past 5 years so no reason we cant in the next 5, Gao's money is not crucial to the club, the only issue is if he decided to asset strip and he has shown no intention of that at all.
Indeed our current playing squad is worth less than what he paid for the club, the profit for Gao is turning this club into something that someone would be willing to pay big money for, that was Markus Lieherr's plan and that is what happened, no one screamed at him in the summer of 2010 just before his death when we made mainly free transfer signings because we had blown the summer budget in the January window and Markus's would not put more in insisting that Cortese stuck to the budget.
But calling for Gao to go is simplistic it is the cry from an age when football clubs were run by the local Butcher, Baker and Candlestick maker and if they mucked it up they were replaced by the local accountant, builder and factory owner.
Today is different, i we are to get better than Gao then we need someone who has at least as much money as him and is willing to throw away some of it, Financial Fair Play laws have tightened these billionaires do not grow on tree's, if Gao truly wanted to make money from the club then he would have already sold it, found a willing buyer and as some would claim laundered his money out of China and into a UK bank account.
But he would have known before buying the club that this would be difficult after all if there was someone out there willing to do that then they would have been in the running 18 months ago.
The only thing wrong with the club at the moment is that we are not winning games of football, there are many reasons behind that, some of those responsible are gone, there are fresh faces in not only the boardroom but those running the playing side of things day to day.
The rest of this season is important, we need to stay up and then we can look forward with more confidence.
A year ago we were just about to replace a poor manager with another poor manager, we now have one that looks increasingly better, yes we perhaps should have invested in January, but our playing squad now is better than a year ago, some of those who were playing badly a year ago are now playing well, we stayed up last year we have more reason to believe that we can do this season.
Finally some will say that am an apologist for the club, that I should be criticising it, I will criticise it where criticism is due, I will criticise it on facts not hearsay, that will not please some, but that is where I am at at the moment, I know little about Gao Jisheng, but so far he has done nothing to justify some of the criticism that he has got in the past few days, show me why I should change my view and I will listen and be the first to stand up and call for change.
Photo: Action Images
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