FTI Consulting, Central Hong Kong, China


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Name of Organization / Company: FTI Consulting, Central Hong Kong, China

Category: Award for Innovation in Investor Relations

Entry Title: Announcing the First Acquisition of an English Premier League Club by a Mainland Chinese Owner


In August 2016, West Bromwich Albion Football Club (“West Brom”) was acquired by Yunyi Guokai (Shanghai) Sports Development Limited (“Yunyi Guokai” or “consortium”), a sports industry focused Development Company Limited (“Palm”, [002431.SZ]), one of China’s largest landscape design and construction companies listed on Shenzhen Stock Exchange, and regulated asset management company FTI was engaged to provide strategic communications support in China and the UK around the acquisition.

The acquisition was significant as it marked the first mainland-Chinese owner of a Premier League However, a number of Chinese deals had encountered resistance from domestic regulators and government bodies, creating a negative profile around transactions. In addition, high-profile acquisitions owners being accused of lacking commitment to the long-term success of the clubs, purchasing them only as a vanity project.

In China, the Chinese regulator was starting to put in place measures to restrict capital outflows, taking a particular interest in the strategic motives of overseas acquisitions. Any high-profile acquisition In the UK, there had been significant speculation around the potential sale of West Brom to overseas investors over previous years, including rumours of acquisitions by very high-profile Chinese companies. virtually unknown outside China.


• Effectively communicate Mr. Lai’s messages, including the strategic fit of the transaction, Mr. Lai’s commitment to the long-term success and growth of the Club, maintenance of the Club’s ethos and • Ensure the alignment of communications strategies, tactics, and messaging between the UK and China;
• Create an international profile for Mr. Lai and the other companies in the consortium; and
• Mitigate concerns raised by any stakeholders in the UK, particularly the fans, investors and the media.


• Focused on the strategic rationale of the deal, the client’s long standing interest in football, his commitment to the Club and the opportunities that China presented.
• Created online and background materials surrounding the ownership, the integral role football will play in the urbanisation projects of Palm, and Mr. Lai’s ambition for the football industry.
• Developed a “leak” strategy to address ongoing rumours of an acquisition and advised on the level of engagement the new owner should take.
• Distributed the announcement to media outlets and acted as a spokesperson for the buyer, communicating with media in both markets
• Closely monitored print and social media and provided the client with updates detailing the reaction to the takeover, and advised on the level of engagement to take with the fans and media


• Generated 500+ articles, covering major publications such as the Financial Times, The Times, The Telegraph, the Sun, important regional and local UK media and sports publications and key media in Century Business Herald and Caixin.com.
• Created a global image for Mr. Lai and Palm. The objective was to have the Club consistently rank in the top half of the Premier League standings. The Club has had a successful 2016-2017 season, • Raised awareness and understanding of China’s increasing interest in football and its prospects for the football industry
• Positive media coverage also included messages on what China can offer the football industry and how China’s push to become a football nation will be beneficial to European clubs.