Thai seafood magnate set for takeover of Sheffield Wednesday
SHEFFIELD, England (AP) — A seafood magnate from Thailand was close to becoming the latest foreign owner of an English football club on Thursday after agreeing to a takeover of second-tier team Sheffield Wednesday.
Dejphon Chansiri, whose family controls Thai Union Frozen Group, has been in talks with Wednesday since the end of 2014 and has already made funds available for the club to recently bring in two players on loan.
Financial details of the deal to buy out current owner Milan Mandaric were not disclosed.
Dejphon said he was attracted by the potential of a club whose Hillsborough stadium has a capacity of about 40,000 and is one of the biggest, most high-profile grounds in the country.
“I can assure all our supporters that I will be working extremely hard to bring the success that I already sense from my short time in your city our supporters so desperately crave,” Dejphon said in a statement on the club website.
The northern team has not been in the Premier League since 2000 and won the last of four topflight titles in 1930. Its last major trophy was the League Cup in 1991.
The takeover is subject to approval by the Football League, which runs the three divisions below the Premier League.
Thai Union is the world’s largest producer of tuna, according to Sheffield Wednesday. International brands controlled by the company include John West, King Oscar, Petit Navire, Parmentier, Mareblu, and Century.
Another English team, Premier League Leicester, already has Thai owners — the Srivaddhanaprabha family.
Sheffield United, a fierce local rival of Wednesday and also a team seeking to return to England’s lucrative top division, is co-owned by a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family — Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Mandaric rescued Wednesday from financial ruin when he took control in 2010, helping the club wipe out debts that were in excess of 20 million pounds ($30 million). But he has been looking to sell the club, with a deal with Azerbaijani businessman Hafiz Mammadov collapsing last summer.
“From the first time I met Dejphon, I felt he was the right person for this fantastic club,” Mandaric said. “His business expertise and passion made him stand out from the other interested parties.”
Representatives of Thai Union attended the team’s 0-0 draw against Birmingham last weekend, which leaves the team ninth in the 24-team League Championship. Wednesday is nine points off the playoff places as it seeks a return to the Premier League after a 15-year absence.
Dejphon said his son, Att, was a mascot at the recent game against Blackpool.
“I have made the same promise to him as I do our supporters — he will not let me forget this until we are back in the Premier League,” Dejphon said.