With his eccentric behavior, can’t miss quotes and and in-game diagramming of plays, Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons owner, Wang Xingquan, better known to many as “Boss Wang,” has been one of the most newsworthy and entertaining figures in the Chinese Basketball Association over the last eight years.
Count us among the many who will miss writing about all of it.
Confirming the longtime rumors that had been swirling about for the last several months, the Brave Dragons will be sold to a Beijing-based investment group, who upon completion of the transaction will move the club to China’s capital city for the 2013-14 season. According to Sina, Beijing Enterprises Group Co. Ltd. has reached an agreement to pay
CNY 120 billion (US $194.5 million) CNY 120 million ($19.4 million), a price which includes the rights to all of the club’s senior and second team players, including imports Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines.
The move marks Beijing Enterprises first foray into professional basketball. Where the team will play their home games and who will be head coach are all still up in the air. According to multiple reports, the Beijing-based group has its sights set on Wukesong Arena, but is also considering Worker’s Gymnasium.
For many fans of the CBA, the sudden absence of a team in Shanxi is a bittersweet development. Known as arguably the loudest and most passionate fans in the league, Brave Dragons home games in Taiyuan have given the team a huge edge in recent years. In a league where most teams still struggle to draw consistently high attendance figures, losing the well-supported Dragons is undoubtedly a loss for the league, the city of Taiyuan and the province. Accordingly, in a last ditch to save the club, fans in Taiyuan have organized a rally, which will be held on May 1st.
But at present, it appears that the deal will be officially completed shortly. Today, QQ Sports reports that the CBA has already received the paperwork and that the deal only lacks signatures from the Shanxi and Beijing sports bureaus. If completed, Beijing will have two CBA teams for the first time since the 2005-06 season, when the Beijing Olympians played neighbors to the Beijing Ducks.
Considering the relative success the Brave Dragons have enjoyed in the last two seasons, the news of their sale comes largely as a shock. With the great support from local fans, and a team that looks to be on the upswing with several talented young Chinese and the best import tandem in the league, why is the team being sold and moved?
In a wide ranging interview with the Taiyang Evening paper published yesterday, Wang cited personal financial problems and the ongoing pressure of having to support a team that operates annually at a loss.
“The main reason is because of financial difficulties; the ends aren’t meeting,” said Wang. “These last few years, every CBA team has invested more and more money, on average each team puts in 40 or 50 million RMB per year. Sometimes it can even go as high as 100 million. As you know, the big clubs here spend huge amounts of money and that investment serves as the regular foundation for operating costs. If you don’t have enough capital, there’s no way to attract good players, and then there’s no way to adequately invest in the development of players. Which means that the team can’t achieve any results.”
“I haven’t been at the Shanxi steelworks since 2008 and there hasn’t been any new business ventures for me since then. Every season, the team operates at a deficit of 20 or 30 million RMB, and that’s eating directly into my own capital. I’m only able to do so much. I truly can’t prop up the club anymore.”
Wang added that he attempted to find alternative solutions aimed at keeping the Dragons in Taiyuan, such as finding local investors to buy part of the club, but in the end could only come to an acceptable agreement with Beijing Enterprise as no one else was willing to come to the rescue.
Though Wang will sell the team outright, he won’t completely be out of the picture. Sina is reporting that he will stay on in a management role; however, how much he’ll actually be involved with the club remains to be seen. For the sake of this blog, let’s hope this isn’t Wang’s final act of his thoroughly engaging basketball experience.