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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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BaselSaint added 11:49 - Feb 18
Those of us ´not numerical´?- oh dear, that is a million all day long. Oops.

SaintNick added 11:53 - Feb 18
I wondered whether anyone would notice

saintpp added 12:03 - Feb 18
Great post but will be lost on those who wont bother to even give Gao half a chance.If he came out and stated ambitious plans he would be ridiculed if he says nothing he doesnt care. The DE headline 'he loses control' was click bait designed to raise concerns thats like saying if you sell a car you lose control of it.

roamer added 12:14 - Feb 18
What a passion in these words, I must say! Nick, we are not in front of Parliament just before final speach of PM, before she is getting to be kicked by her chair in Thames River, for example. Relax....I think, sooner than later, all the supporters will understand what is hiding behind Lander Stock's Sell. Personally, I presume Gao was forced to do that by some political and economical reasons related with his status in China, more or less.

Ripleys_revenge added 13:02 - Feb 18
Nick, a well written article although the continued silence from the owner certainly does not help alleviate supporters concerns. A short statement of intent would be more than sufficient for most fans. As it is, fans are left with more questions than answers as every piece of communication comes through Krueger, a man who can be very hard to make any sense out of - he often directly contradicts himself whenever he speaks publicly, and the corporate waffle simply arouses suspicion in the eyes of supporters who are rightly wary of being taken for a ride.

I'm not too concerned about Gao selling his shares, but I feel everyone would benefit if he put out a 30 second statement to reassure fans. That doesn't take much, and with the club continuing to flirt with relegation and continuing to sell without reinvesting would be very welcome from most supporters.

Colburn added 13:17 - Feb 18
Do you have a personal agenda with Jack Stephens? Another article which has nothing to do with the players and yet again you have a dig at one current player, again it’s Jack. This is becoming pathetic Nick. It’s a shame because you call for unity from fans at times we need to stick together, like now, yet you single out a player during two articles this week to hammer when those articles are about something completely different. We all make our comments about players but you clearly feel the need to keep hitting out at Jack in odd places. You’re beginning to look like a coward!

bstokesaint added 13:20 - Feb 18
The FA recently declared that more needed to be done to investigate some of the foreign owners in the Premiership. They actually used Gao as an example. And you can see why when he’s previously been investigated on fraud charges. All I’ll say is that he certainly lacks the credibility that Markus had and I won’t be leaping his defence until I’ve seen something on the contrary. As a club we’ve been through to much to go back into financial turmoil. We all know from publicly available information that Lander have very little cash to invest, which was an immediate red flag.

bstokesaint added 13:20 - Feb 18
The FA recently declared that more needed to be done to investigate some of the foreign owners in the Premiership. They actually used Gao as an example. And you can see why when he’s previously been investigated on fraud charges. All I’ll say is that he certainly lacks the credibility that Markus had and I won’t be leaping his defence until I’ve seen something on the contrary. As a club we’ve been through to much to go back into financial turmoil. We all know from publicly available information that Lander have very little cash to invest, which was an immediate red flag.

bstokesaint added 13:22 - Feb 18
Colburn, what are you talking about? Are you Jack Stephens in disguise?

halftimeorange added 13:44 - Feb 18
Most people I know treat anything the Echo reports with contempt. I do wonder whether Gao has made a shrewd move in divesting himself of some of his holdings before the Chinese economy disintegrates, as is widely forecast. If that happens it will make the Greek financial mess of a couple of years back look like a game of Monopoly. We will then learn whether investing in Saints was merely a way of spreading Mr Gao's risk.

underweststand added 14:06 - Feb 18
All this talk about "re-assurance" from Mr.Gao" ? .Re-assurance about "what" - exactly?.

Ralph K gave a good presentation (at the fans on-line meeting), but even that doesn't seem to satisfy some. Mr.Gao has the wherewithal to fly from China to regularly watch Saints games - but must he issue a statement every time he visits SMS?... and will fans be re-assured by what is most-likely his.... less than perfect English.

Gao surely satisfied himself of the credibility of those on the Board before he took over the club, and unless he's become disatisfied with the way the club has been run (aside from the results on the pitch) then why should he need to make a new statement every month ..week..and issue out packs of nappies for those people who continually doubt.

Those with short-er memories might recall that during his 5 year reign as Dictator at SMS ...Nicola Cortese made VERY few public statements and passed that honour over to others - even though he was more than capable of giving a meaningful statement.

To me - this is all "Fake News" conjured up by a lazy Press corps. with little else of real consequence to write about and looking to sensationalise meaningless "small talk" and unsettle players and fans alike.


Colburn added 14:11 - Feb 18
BStoke saint.. no I’m not, clearly. Just don’t see why Nick ruins a good article, which I agree with in respect of the echo causing insecurity among the fans, by continuing his recent assault on one particular player when the article has nothing to do with him.. just looks like Nick can’t leave him be.. is that going to help anyone? It’s one thing to be critical of players because of poor effort or attitude and fair to give an opinion that you think a player is not good enough, we all do that, fair enough, but to keep having a go at one player, particularly in 2 recent articles based on off the pitch topics, I.e. players gone and local paper misrepresenting chairman, seems like a cheap shot to me and not helpful to anyone! If we trust in Ralph then why keep questioning his decisions on centre backs. Are these digs at Jack, out of place, going to help him to iron out any mistakes..? You can learn to cut out mistakes especially as a young player and Jack is still young for a CB. He has the skills so he needs to be given time. These defensive mistakes happen at the big teams too but they score more at the other end.. sorry but for me a good article was ruined by a cheap shot..

highfield49 added 14:42 - Feb 18
Despite all of the speculation about Mr Gao the essential aspect that I don't understand is, as I recall anyway, that he was supposed to be taking the club to the "next level" or something similar. I presumed that the next level was going to be somewhat different to our current experience but I have to accept that the plan was probably ambitious. I suspect that Mr Gao is also a better poker player than me because my nerves are already shredding before the next cards are dealt.

bstokesaint added 19:37 - Feb 18
Spot on Highfield. That is indeed what we were promised. Glad someone remembered the board’s quote at the time. I don’t need reassurance through meaningless statements, but need to see something in the transfer market that represents that “next level” because all we’re witnessing, if anything, is a move backwards whilst other clubs around spend to bolster their squads in an effort to avoid the drop. Actions speak louder than words.

SanMarco added 23:24 - Feb 18
ah - but is 'next level' a higher level? Doesn't seem so does it? As far as I am concerned the same level as last year - 17th and stay up will do me. We can hardly expect more with our defence. I don't know about Gao but for me Ralph staying for a while and building his own de-Les Reedified squad would be the key objective.

As for Jack Stephens - isn't the main problem that he isn't very good? No amount of mentions or non-mentions in Nick's articles will make a blind bit of difference to that.

I expect the Cortese brigade will eventually read the bit about their man too....

underweststand added 09:22 - Feb 19
oh yes - the "next level".... it takes the right manager with the right players in the right formation to get real success. (With respect to his successes with Saints), Nigel Adkins got two promotions with a squad that primarily built by Alan Pardew in his only season .

Pochettino inherited the squad that Adkins left and made a couple of influential buys but his methodolgy built us to a team that was punching well above his level, and he clearly saw we had reached our peak with 8th place. His move to Spurs was quite predictable.

Koeman bought ..7 or 8 new players at the start of his first season, and topped up the squad in the right way in the following transfer windows. We might have improved even further had he not defected to Everton for bigger money, it did little for his reputation.

Puel (for all his faults) did well with what he was given and achieved a good deal of success (albeit by the most boring methods.). His then, rather wild prediction about Redmond's ability doesn't sound quite so crazy now. I think his dismissal was prompted by "fan power " rather than the players, but the real mistake was bringing in Pellegrino at such short notice . He may have been "the best of the worst" at a time when the availability of good / proven managers was at a low point.
Mark Hughes will take credit for seeing us stay up, but little else and in the light of the revival under Ralph, one wonders what Hughes had in mind by continuing to utilise the same "failed "personnel whilst ignoring the younger talents who have come to the fore.

Our burden now is the long-term contracts of players who are no longer part of the scene and who, in some measure, seem unsaleable to the clubs who bought our best stars.
Ralph's first priority is to keep us up , and then continue to re-model the playing squad who (for better or worse) will need to take " his way or the highway ".

Assuming we stay up, our future will not depend on the players we keep / sell, but if Ralph stays - or not. The next level , I feel, may still be at least a year or two away.


LordDZLucan added 09:34 - Feb 19
Just a few observations:
1. Football is not business. Individuals put their money into football clubs for other reasons.
2. The van Dijk money has not been fully re-invested. Just look at the following analysis - And this is based on figures that suggest we've paid well over the odds for average players.
3. It's not enough just to re-invest money received from transfers in the playing squad. The TV money needs to be invested as well.
In conclusion I'm not sure what Mr. Gao's motivations are but the facts would suggest that he's not particularly focussed on getting saints back up to the top 8 in the table!

saintmark1976 added 10:14 - Feb 19
So Nick,Mr Gao has a private conversation with a local MP who for all we know has never been to a game at St Mary's. She then states the same meaning less corporate speak as our beloved chairman and we are supposed to all go home happy. I'm minded of the expression "pull the other one it's got a hand made shoe on it".

BoondockSaint added 16:29 - Feb 19
Maybe he sold those shares so he has cash to spend on better players?
Yeah, I'm dreaming.....


warrens76 added 17:38 - Feb 19
'Having crunched the numbers' really...let me tell you the difference, none, a disinterested Chancer is still a disinterested chancer, end of.

NewburySaint added 10:13 - Feb 20
Nope, his selling of his shares makes no difference to us so i have no problem with that.

What i do have a problem with is, and nobody seems to have picked up on it yet, why is he having a meeting with a local MP (is this MP even a Saints fan that has been to St Marys?) to tell her about his plans for our club but yet us, the paying customers, don't have a clue of his intentions because he, or Ralph for that matter, ain't told us??

Also people have picked up on the previous statement about Gao taking us to the next level-to be fair he has done that and he never said which level he wanted to take us to......

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