Zhu interest in Liverpool may be on slow boat to China

BEIJING - A spokesman for Chinese businessman Zhu Jun gave an enigmatic response when asked about Tuesday's media report about the internet tycoon's involvement in talks over the purchase of Premier League club Liverpool.

Zhu, who owns Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua, has held preliminary talks about buying the 18-times English champions in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to a report in Britain's Independent newspaper.

"I cannot tell you any information at this moment," his assistant Zhou Liang told Reuters by telephone from Shanghai.

"(The report) was information from the English side. Information moves very fast but there are some entities that need vehicles to travel. It is a long way between England and China. It takes time to travel. "These entities need to go either by air or by sea. They are on their way. As soon as they arrive in China, we will let you know."

Liverpool's American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks have brought in a new chairman, Martin Broughton, to oversee the sale of the club they have owned since Feb. 2007.


If he did buy the club, Zhu would become the first Liverpool owner to have played against the team, having appeared for five minutes under a pseudonym when Shanghai played them in pre-season tournament in the Netherlands in 2007.

The 44-year-old made his fortune from The9, a Nasdaq-quoted internet company that prospered on the back of holding the China license for the hugely popular World of Warcraft fantasy game.

He bought Shanghai United in 2006 before taking over as the majority shareholder in their more successful city rivals Shenhua a year later and controversially uniting them in one club.

Zhu is the second Chinese to be linked with Liverpool after Kenny Huang, a Guandong-born American citizen who has interests in Chinese baseball and basketball.

Huang issued a statement last month denying comments attributed to him in the British media about the future of Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez but declining comment on his interest in purchasing the five-times European champions.

Huang, who was also involved in a bid to purchase a minority share in Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, runs his Chinese sporting interests through a private company, QSL Sports Limited.

Last week, Huang took 100 percent control of QSL after the departure of his partner Adrian Cheng, a Hong Kong retail tycoon thought to be the money behind the venture.

Hong Kong billionaire Carson Yeung became the first Chinese owner of a Premier League club when he bought Birmingham City through his Grandtop International Holdings investment vehicle last year.

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