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Rakuten in talks to buy Taiwan professional baseball league champions

2019/09/18 16:43:03

Monkeys General Manager Justin Liu / CNA file photo

Taipei, Sept. 18 (CNA) Japan-based e-commerce giant Rakuten is in talks with the Lamigo Monkeys to buy the six-time Taiwan professional baseball league champions, the current owner confirmed Wednesday.

Monkeys General Manager Justin Liu (劉玠廷) confirmed to reporters that negotiations are ongoing and a press conference will be held in Taipei Thursday with Rakuten representatives to provide more details on a possible deal.

Liu's comment came after Japanese media made public the possibility of a deal earlier in the day.

Local Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) Secretary-General Feng Sheng-xian (馮勝賢) also confirmed the news but stressed that how the Japanese group will make the purchase depends on further discussions with CPBL board members and the league's other three teams.

CPBL Commissioner John Wu (吳志揚) will also attend Thursday's press event, Feng added.

No foreign company has ever purchased or run a CPBL team since its founding in 1990.

Established in 1997, Tokyo-based Rakuten is Japan's leading e-commerce and internet company.

The company also operates Japan's biggest Internet bank and has run Japanese pro baseball team Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, since its formation in 2005.

The Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture-based team won its first and so far only Japan Series Championship in 2013.

Meanwhile, the Monkeys has been on sale since July after current owner Merry Yard International Enterprise Corp., said it could no longer afford the financial cost of running the team.

Liu disclosed that over the past 16 years, the company has spent NT$100 million (US$3.20 million) annually, a huge burden for a relatively small company.

"For the long-term development of the Monkeys while keeping up its competitiveness, we believe it is better for a bigger enterprise to run it," he said at a July 3 press event to announce the sale.

In contrast, the owners of the three other CPBL teams are some of the biggest companies in Taiwan.

CTBC Brothers is owned by CTBC, Taiwan's third-largest publicly traded financial firm by market value, Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions is funded by Uni-President Corp., one of Taiwan's largest conglomerates, while the Fubon Guardians is owned by Fubon Financial Holding Co., Taiwan's second-largest financial holding company by assets.

Known for the successful management of its home stadium in Taoyuan, the Lamigo Monkeys is the most popular team in the CPBL, with the highest average attendance last year -- more than 6,000 per game.

The team has also won six CPBL championships and qualified for this year's playoffs after winning the first half-season title on June 25.

(By Joseph Yeh)
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