Exactly who owns Birmingham City FC?
EFL rules state that every club has to list a breakdown of shareholders who own more than 10% of the club and you can find this information on this page on the official Birmingham City website.
As of the time of writing, legally the club is owned 100% by a UK parent, Birmingham City PLC, which in turn is owned approximately 96.64% by Birmingham Sports Holdings, a Cayman Island company listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.
Birmingham Sports Holdings lists the following entities as owning significant shareholdings in the company:
Trillion Trophy Asia is a British Virgin Islands (BVI) company which is 100% controlled by Wealthy Associates (also a BVI company), which in turn is 100% controlled by Paul Suen Cho Hung.
Splendid Wealth Enterprises is a Samoan company 100% controlled by a HK company called Chigwell Holdings, which is in turned 100% controlled by a BVI company called Lainn Yee Ltd, which in turn is 100% controlled by Wang Lehai.
Dragon Villa is a BVI company 100% controlled by Lei Sutong.
A further 0.24% of Birmingham City PLC is directly owned by Trillion Trophy Asia.
I understand that this all seems obfuscatory and confusing – but unfortunately it doesn’t end there.
It’s also worth noting that while Paul Suen Cho Hung is seen as the owner of the club, money has been injected from other sources such as via loans from Dragon Villa and Chigwell Holdings. I have written an article concerned with those loans here.
Who are the directors of the club?
The club list five directors, who I have listed below. Please note that I adhere to the eastern name order for Chinese names and thus the names may appear different to what is listed on the official website.
The current directors of the club are involved in the running of the club but do not put any money in as they are employees – thus while Ren Xuandong is closely involved with the owners of the club, he’s not an owner himself.
Two directors of the club – Zhao Wenqing and Yiu Chun Kong – are also directors of Birmingham Sports Holdings, with Zhao also having the title of Chairman of BSH.
When can the club be sold?
Prior to the resumption of trading in shares in Birmingham Sports Holdings (then Birmingham International Holdings) on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, an undertaking was given to the authorities that the company and/or club would not be sold within a two year period – ie before October 17, 2018.
However, anyone expecting the club to become available for sale after that date is likely to be disappointed.
Recent announcements to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong show that ownership of the holding company has gradually been transitioning, with new appointees to the board such as Huang Dongfeng and Hsiao Charng Geng, new investments such as the Cambodian project – and thus it’s my expectation that once the two year period has expired Paul Suen will step away and the new owners will already be in place.
Legal precautions deny me the opportunity at this time to print explicitly who I believe the new owners will be.
What role does Darren Dein have?
As a current FA licenced intermediary (registration number IMS000793) representing players, I understand that it is against FA and EFL rules for Darren Dein to have a role directly with the club and as such he does not work for BCFC.
However, it is my understanding that Dein has a contract with a subsidiary of Birmingham Sports Holdings to provide advice on a consultation basis to BSH and by extension the owners of BCFC.
Details of this contract are unavailable and probably will remain so as it’s my belief that Dein will have a contract with a BSH subsidiary based somewhere like the British Virgin Islands.
As yet the club have not offered any comment on any relationship Darren Dein has with Birmingham City or it’s owners.
What can fans do?
I appreciate that for many fans there is a feeling of helplessness and of apathy when it comes to ownership of the club – but it is not true that the fans can’t do anything. I proved myself with Often Partisan that by continually asking the right questions and putting pressure onto people such as Peter Pannu I could put him into a situation whereby he incriminated himself and as such helped to force the regulatory authorities to act.
Supporter groups like the Blues Trust are set up to help give fans a voice in a financially regulated environment. With enough support it’s possible for the Trust to do things like buy shares in either BCFC or BSH.
While it might be a pipedream for many to believe in fan ownership of a club, owning shares entitles an individual or group entity to vote and speak in shareholder meetings – and while clubs can happily ignore fans should they wish it is much harder for them to ignore shareholders, especially if the right procedures are followed.