Hui Ka-yan has regained majority ownership of Chinese Super League club Guangzhou Evergrande, after repurchasing a portion of shares from Alibaba Group for a reported ¥400m (~USD $65m).
Hui bought Evergrande for ¥100m in 2010 following a match-fixing scandal that saw the club relegated. His investment brought immediate success with the Guangzhou based club promoted in the following year and going on to win the league as well as become the first Chinese club to win the AFC Champions League cup.
In 2014 he sold a 50% stake to Alibaba for ¥1.2b, netting a 719 million yuan profit on the sale. With the recent repurchase Hui has increases his holdings to 60%, leaving Alibaba with a 40% interest in the club.
The ownership shuffle also brings management changes with Zhang Yong, Alibaba’s Chief Operating Officer, stepping down from his role as CEO to be replaced by Ke Peng, a Vice Chairman of Evergrande Real Estate Group.
While the changes in leadership and price of the deal might be eye-brow raising, the truth of the moves are likely to be a blander reality. Alibaba’s sale is less a statement of intent than a divestment from a wildly successful investment which has already seen the company realize ¥280m in profit along with huge branding windfalls for Alibaba and Taobao. It is unsurprising that Jack Ma would take a step back from the club, both financially and operationally, in favor putting those resources to work elsewhere, particularly with Alibaba now operating under the scrutiny of public investors.