Soccer-Last hurdle overcome in Lim's record Valencia deal

Reuters

By Patrick Johnston

SINGAPORE, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Singaporean Peter Lim will complete a record deal to buy Valencia in the next couple of weeks after overcoming the final hurdle on the restructuring of the team's huge debts, the club's president told Reuters on Friday.

Amadeo Salvo Lillo did not reveal the terms of the agreement but said the purchase was the most expensive in Spanish soccer and bettered only by the 800 million pounds ($1.34 billion) the Glazer family paid for Manchester United in 2005 and the 300 million pounds Liverpool cost the Fenway Group four years ago.

"We are in the final stage, fortunately yesterday Meriton Holdings, Mr Lim's company, and Bankia, the main creditor, they arrive in agreement at the (final) three points," Lillo said.

"We are in the last step and we hope that in a few weeks they can sign the final transaction.

"We start the new season on Aug 23 against Sevilla, its not possible to sign before but what's important is that the deal is very close to being signed. It's very positive for the club."

The Singaporean won a bidding contest in May to buy 70.4 percent of shares owned by the club's foundation and had an exclusive negotiation period which ended on Friday to find a repayment solution on the 320 million Euro ($428.61 million) debt issue.

Like many Spanish clubs, Valencia have struggled with high levels of debt and have regularly been forced to sell their top players such as David Villa and David Silva to stay afloat.

Lim has a fortune worth $2.4 billion, according to Forbes magazine, and is an avid Manchester United fan but likes to stay out of the media spotlight and hardly ever gives interviews.

He made his money from a palm oil startup business having funded his studies in Western Australia through numerous odd jobs such as taxi driver, waiter and cook.

During the lengthy negotiation process, Valencia sacked Argentina-born coach Juan Antonio Pizzi after just over half a season in charge and replaced him with former Deportivo La Coruna and Porto goalkeeper Nuno.

Spanish media said Lim, who tried to buy English side Liverpool in 2010, had been behind the decision.

Lillo did not confirm Lim's involvement in the move but said the club, who last won the Spanish title in 2004, had been working with Lim's friend, Portuguese agent Jorge Mendes, on deals.

"Everybody talks about Jorg Mendes. Jorg Mendes is the best player's agent in the world. That means it is always good to work with the best in the world," Lillo said.

"Jorg Mendes is a friend of Peter Lim and of course now and in the future he is helping us to develop a sport model to bring players and sell players from the squad. It is very positive that Jorg Mendes is close to club."

Lillo said Lim had unanimous backing from shareholders after edging out six other bids from Europe and America and that the club would obviously look to build a platform in Asia.

He added that Lim was committed to helping fund a new stadium for the club before their centenary celebrations in 2019 but that they would not be relying solely on the Singaporean's wealth to survive.

"It's a long term project and is not only money. They want to develop the club, the club must be in the coming years a profitable club."

Lillo was flying back to Spain on Friday evening and said it had been a very strenuous period of negotiations but was pleased a signature on the deal was close to being signed.

"The stress is too high. Everyday there is internal fight in the media with shareholders...but the winner is the club and the winner as well is Peter Lim. I want to say publicly thank you very much for waiting.

"We now have the financial opportunity to develop a modern club and come back to be the number one as we were 10 years ago."

(1 US dollar = 0.5992 British pound)

(1 US dollar = 0.7466 euro) (Reporting by Patrick Johnston; editing by Justin Palmer)

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