The Elusive Mr King Part XIV – Wang and the Takeover Process

With news breaking of a new takeover bid at Birmingham City, there have been questions from fans arising from the ongoing EFL investigation into Wang Yaohui (aka the elusive Mr King), and the issues it may cause a potential takeover.

Wang Yaohui

As it’s been a while since I’ve spoken about Wang Yaohui I thought it was worth an article recapping what we know about the investigation, why it’s happening and looking at what Wang is up to at the moment.

I’ve written extensively about Wang over the last five years, and you can read my series of articles about him at this link.

Why are the EFL investigating Wang?

It’s been eight months or so since the investigation into Wang Yaohui’s connections with Birmingham City was raised by the EFL and I’m not really surprised that many fans don’t know or cannot remember as to why there is an investigation.

Officially, the club deny any connection between itself and Wang Yaohui.

However, over the last five years I’ve published various circumstantial evidence linking Wang to directors of the club such as Frank Zhao Wenqing as well as shareholders such as Vong Pech.

This has been backed up from my visit to Phnom Penh, Cambodia last year where I was able to obtain more details of the connections between Vong Pech and Wang.

As I have published this evidence, I have offered the opinion that this all points to Wang exercising financial control over the club.

However, circumstantial evidence is just that and it has never seemed to be enough for the EFL to take any steps to investigate any further.

That changed in May of last year when Jack Adamovic Davies of Radio Free Asia published a report confirming that affidavits filed in Singapore named Wang as ultimate beneficial owner of a company called Dragon Villa.

As Dragon Villa own just over 17% of Birmingham Sports Holdings, that news would confirm that Wang if a shareholder in BSH and by extension a part-owner of the club, making him what the EFL call a “Relevant Person”.

Under EFL rules, anyone who has any kind of control over the way the club operates is called a “Relevant Person” and has to take the Owners and Directors Test (OADT) to show that they are a fit and proper person to run a football club.

As the EFL were able to obtain copies of the affidavits from the Singaporean High Court, they now had written evidence in their hands that Wang was a relevant person, meaning that they were then obligated to launch an investigation into what has happened.

Why is the investigation an issue?

Since the EFL investigation was launched, we have had zero information as to timescales or potential penalties that could be imposed if it upheld that Wang should have been declared as a Relevant Person.

It was this lack of clarity that Paul Richardson and Maxco claim was the reason their attempt to buy the club failed, as was reported by Talksport on December 6.

“One of the biggest issues for us which we didn’t know about was the investigation into the current owners and that is still ongoing, so that’s always been something that’s a bit of an issue for us because the outcome of that is unknown at this point in time.

According to Richardson, Maxco had wanted to insert a clause into the deal whereby if Blues suffered league penalties due to the investigation, the price Maxco were to pay for the club would drop.

As we still do not know any details about the investigation, it stands to reason that the investigation could pose an issue while Often Partisan Limited (OPL) conduct their due diligence.

Should there be no confirmation of what the outcome is prior to due diligence being completed, OPL will need to decide as to whether they want to attempt to negotiate a clause as Maxco tried, or instead to be bold enough to accept whatever outcome is imposed and to deal with the consequences as they happen.

That is a really difficult decision to make without information and I know if I was in OPL’s shoes I would be doing everything to push the EFL for a steer on what outcomes are likely.

It adds another layer of complexity to what is already a difficult and risky deal to pull off, and as such we have to expect that OPL are going to want to take their time to complete as thorough a due diligence process as possible.

What is Wang up to?

During all this, Wang Yaohui has laid very low.

While in the past I’ve been able to obtain information from online sources as to what he has been doing and investing in, it’s clear that in the last twelve months he has gone to ground.

I attempted to visit Wang’s office at Jardine House in Hong Kong when I was there over Christmas and New Year; sadly new security measures put in place since my previous visit in 2018 meant that I could no longer access the lifts to get to Wang’s office without an appointment.

The supposition from my sources in the far east was that Wang was hiding in Singapore, as his Cambodian diplomatic passport and position at the Royal Cambodian Embassy to Singapore would offer Wang some protection.

However, that supposition was wrong.

As it turns out, Wang has been living in America for the last year, residing in a $17m house purchased in 2021, located in an exclusive gated community in southern California.

That property among others owned by Wang suggests that money may not be an issue for him.

However Wang’s apparent behaviour while in California suggests that he may well be very concerned about the heat he has picked up over the last year or so.

It’s for this reason I believe my contacts in the far east who have told me that Wang wants to sell the club.

If Wang could completely extricate himself from Blues, it would realistically be best for everyone.

The EFL would be able to close their investigation quietly as it wouldn’t be as applicable any more, while I’m sure Blues fans would be happy to no longer have that particular sword of Damocles hanging over the club.

In turn, this is why I think keeping pressure on Wang is the right thing to do.

It’s my opinion that the more Wang is convinced that he cannot escape the “heat” the club generates, the more desperate Wang will be to do a deal and therefore the more pressure Wang will put on other people involved at BSH like Paul Suen Cho Hung to take whatever is on offer.

I have to be honest and say that I have no certain idea as to what fans could do which would be most effective.

The only thing I can offer in this regard is that as Tesco says, every little helps.