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The Thoughts Of Chairman Gao
Sunday, 9th Jun 2019 21:30

Gao Jisheng has broken his silence and given a rare interview and talked about his intentions for Saints the the Financial Times.

Saints fans have been wary of Gao Jisheng since he became the majority shareholder and as such de facto owner of Southampton Football Club.

But those who have been questioning him have been unfair, in the almost two years he has been involved he has not done anything much different and run the club in pretty much the same way it has been since early 2014 when Katharina Liebherr was forced to wrest control from then Chairman Nicola Cortese who was refusing to run the club in the way her late Father would have wished.

Gao has told the Financial Times that he wants the club to be self sufficient and indeed that was the plan Marcus Liebherr had for the club from the day he took charge.

“I am not treating Southampton as a pig to be fattened and sold. He said

“I am treating it as a child. But my children must believe they cannot depend on the boss. I have said to Southampton: ‘I am now your father. But I am putting you on the right track: you need to feed yourself.’”

Gao, who has an 80 per cent stake in Saints worth around £1.6m, told the FT that he remains in control of the club, despite selling his 30 per cent stake in Lander Sports Development last year, because it is owned by the unrelated Hong Kong-based Lander Sports Investment.

“General sports businesses [in China] are in great difficulty, so if you partner with a state-owned company then your resources are larger,”

“I told [the Premier League], you should look at who the boss of Southampton is. The boss of Southampton is my Hong Kong company.

“Whatever happens in the mainland, Southampton’s finances do not change. The Premier League was satisfied.”

Mr Gao also revealed that Saints' new shirt sponsor, LD Sports, is a company that will launch this summer for the Chinese market.

“All companies have their own style,” he continued.

“Asians tend to be low-key. As long as the money reaches Southampton’s bank account and it’s in pounds sterling then it’s OK.”

Gao says the three-year shirt sponsorship deal is worth ‘nearly twice’ the £4.8m-per season deal with Virgin Media and that last year’s £28.6m profit means more can be spent on players than is received this summer.

“The club’s financial situation is good this year and it doesn’t require more investment,”

In truth Gao is saying nothing different than Katharina Liebherr had been saying prior to selling her stake to Gao, some Saints fans have been quick to question Gao, but the truth is that he has sat back and looked at the way the club has been run and now after getting his feet under the table is starting to impose his way of doing things a little more.

This has been a good strategy and those Saints fans who have jumped down his throat should hang back and see what he intends before criticising him.

The Premier League has changed a lot even since we finished 6th 3 years ago and we have to face some harsh realities as do most other clubs who are not in the Big Six.

It is clear though that Saints are now looking to expand and grow the club though sveral different areas including forging links with other countries, not just his own native China but Japan and the USA to name nut two more.

Now no one can complain that he has not said anything.

He has confirmed several key points.

1, The club is not being fattened up to be sold at a profit.

2. It will be run as a business and he is the owner

3. Profits will be invested back into the playing side where needed

4. Money will be spent this summer

5 The commercial department at the club is crucial and is bringing in corporate clients

6. The clubs financial situation is good.

So now having been told this we need to concentrate on supporting the club, that does not mean that we should not take the club to task in areas when it needs to be questioned, but we should judge things on their own merits and not conduct witch hunts where there is no evidence.

Photo: Action Images

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codge added 22:31 - Jun 9
Good report Nick,as per usual spot on in your analysis of the ownership side of things.
Although l have some different points of view with your comments on games played you are very insightful and always give an honest assessment in what you think.
Keep up the good work looking forward to the new season COYR.

underweststand added 06:20 - Jun 10
I'm pretty good on "conspiracy theories" but I don't think this is one I share with others.
Of course Mr.Gao is a businessman and the Asian " take " on business is not the same as we are familiar with in Europe. Many Asian countries are trying to build markets in very competative sectors and need to work hard for their market share. Unlike certain Russian /Middle-Eastern club owners who have "money to burn"as long as oil flows from the ground (and we continue to drive petrol-driven vehicles) and seemingly want " a quick fix" from their investment.

I think Mr.Gao is more patient but clearly wants the club to develop and stand on its own feet (financially-speaking). Sensible investment on young players is still part of the club strategy, and whilst many fans (may rightfully) criticise some of Les Reed's more recent buys , we ought not to forget that NIcola Cortese's expenditure on certain foreign imports (Ramirez and Osvaldo in particular) put the club's economy on dangerous ground when he was in control.

I'm sure that Mr.Gao would help out if the club needed urgent funding, but the recent profit that Saints are beginning to run on more sensible lines, and I would be somewhat concerned if Saints splashed £40-50 million on a single player, and then wait and worry every game in case he broke a leg/ or got an ACL injury.

To quote an older business phrase - we must "cut our coat according to the cloth" .
Mr.Gao built his business empire on making good judgments, I don't think he is about to abandon this one.

SaintNick added 11:02 - Jun 10
Reasoned views from underweststand lts hope they re catching

I_would added 11:33 - Jun 10
1. Shame he's not fattening the club to sell.
2. Football clubs are not thought of as businesses, only money pits for enthusiasts.
3.As yet Gao hasn't invested profits only reinvested turnover.
4.No net spend probable again this summer.
5.Our commercial dept still lags most other clubs.
6.The clubs financial position would be better if the Chairman actually had cash, and was willing to spend, like Bournemouth.

SaintNick added 13:29 - Jun 10
Actually our commercial income is rising, as Gao said in his interview the new sponsorship deal is double that of Virgin who are still paying a considerable amount to be sleeve sponsors an area we havent touched before, our turnover for the latest period available 2017/18 showed that it was the 11th highest in the league and our wage bill the 10th so we are squarely in midtable.

Both turnover and wage bill were very near to that of Leicester City but well below Everton who were 7th highest in both but propped up by a big interest free loan from their major shareholder moshiri

Why would the clubs financial position be better if the owner has cash, which he does but chooses to run us as a business rather than his plaything. Bournemouth as of the summer of 2018 owed almost £70 m to their owners and that figure was up £14 m from the previous year, aside from the Premier League & sky money their total commercial revenue including gate receipts was £14.5 m.

To compare we owed £20m (this was to Kat I think may have gone now) our total commercial revenue was £36 m, our highest paid employee on £636k was less than half that of Bournemouths.

Again these figures were very similar to Leicester City.

Now I know which position I would rather be in out of us or Bournemouth whose Chairman is not interested in spending money to either enlarge their stadium or move to another, which again tells you something

SaintBrock added 18:43 - Jun 10
If I were Gao I'd invite other investors in, he only needs to retain 51% after all. It's what the Gunners did very successfully.

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