Taipei, Oct. 21 (CNA) The Ministry of Education is lending a helping hand to the Brother Elephants, one of the most popular teams in Taiwan's professional baseball league, in its search for a new owner, Education Minister Chiang Wei-ling said Monday.
"The ministry has been in talks with two or three potential bidders," Chiang said on the sidelines of a meeting of the Legislative Yuan's Education and Culture Committee.
Chiang revealed that his ministry and its Sports Administration have contacted local conglomerates on the Elephants takeover deal, though he declined to identify potential buyers out of concerns it could hinder negotiations.
As Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League only has four teams, Chiang said, his ministry cannot sit idly by when one says it plans to pull out.
Once an Elephants takeover deal is struck, the ministry will also help push for the establishment of a fifth professional baseball team, he added.
The Elephants' owner announced Saturday that the team is being put up for sale because it has incurred heavy financial losses.
"We can no longer afford to operate the Elephants, and we hope a company bigger and richer than Brother Hotel will contact us for talks on a takeover deal," said Hung Jui-ho, president of the Elephants and one of the five brothers who own the team's parent company, Brother Hotel.
The Elephants, known for their bright yellow uniforms, are one of only two franchises in Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) that have played in the league since it began play in 1990. The other is the Uni-President Lions.
The sport lost popularity when its image was tarnished by a series of gambling and game-fixing scandals that first emerged in 1997. The league then nearly collapsed last year after the Sinon Bulls announced they would disband, but was saved when E-United Group bought the Bulls and renamed the team EDA Rhinos.
The smooth transition and the Rhinos' successful recruitment of former MLB slugger Manny Ramirez, along with Taiwan's best performance ever at the World Baseball Classic early this year, have helped rekindle local enthusiasm in baseball. Attendance at CPBL games fell somewhat, however, after Ramirez's departure in late June.
Chiang said Monday that the development of local baseball remains a priority for the government, and it will work with the CPBL to prevent any recurrence of game-fixing in the future.
(By Hsu Chih-wei and Sofia Wu)