The Wigan Athletic owner, Dave Whelan, has reached an outline agreement to sell the League One club to a Hong Kong-based company whose principal business is running a hotel and casino in the Philippines. The company, International Entertainment Corporation, announced the agreement of a “term sheet” with the Whelan family to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last week, stating that they would have an exclusive fortnight to 14 February to negotiate the price and details of the purchase.
Registered in the Cayman Islands tax haven and floated on the Hong Kong stock exchange, IEC said of its interest in Wigan: “The proposed acquisition, if materialised, represents a good opportunity to diversify the income stream of the company and broaden its revenue base.”
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In its most recent financial statements, published in November for the six months to 30 September, IEC said that it is an investment company whose main business is “hotel operations and leasing of properties for casino and ancillary leisure and entertainment operations”.
It owns the AG New World Manila Bay hotel, a five-star, 32-floor casino hotel in the Philippines capital, whose purchase the company completed in 2016. The “functional currency” of the group is the Philippine peso, the statement said, as that is its principal place of business.
IEC’s interim financial results for the six months to 30 September 2017 showed revenue of HK$148.5m (£13.7m) and a loss of HK$6.4m (£600,000). The company issued a profit warning in November forecasting that loss, following profits made in the similar six-month period in 2016.
Whelan, the former JJB Sports magnate, bought his local club in 1995 then funded the multimillion-pound construction of its new stadium and rise up three divisions to an eight-year stint in the Premier League, which ended with relegation and an FA Cup final triumph in 2013.
In 2015 he resigned as the club’s chairman and his grandson David Sharpe, then 23, was appointed to run the club. At that time Whelan said the family did not intend to sell the club, but Sharpe has since confirmed that talks were ongoing and promised that the family would seek a buyer who would maintain the traditions and a good ethos.
Neither the club nor the family have commented since IEC made its public announcement. If a sale is agreed, the Football League would have to approve the purchase, certifying that IEC has the money to buy the club and would be a “fit and proper” owner for Wigan Athletic.