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A 'royal' mess of a takeover



The 2023/24 season has been something like no other for Reading and everyone involved with the club. The club was listed for sale by owner, Dai Yongge in August 2023, when he was confirmed to be in the process of “seeking investment to provide financial support to the business”. Statements issued by the club and Mr Dai since then have always provided reassurance that the outcome will be what is best for the club. However, Mr Dai has since then built up a reputation of being a challenging person to deal with.

 

Back in October, it was reported that investment group 'Genevra Associates' made a significant bid, potentially as high as £40 million. A deal was close to being finalised as the group neared exclusivity, but Mr Dai tried to change the terms of the deal and talk eventually broke down.

 

Former Newcastle owner Mike Ashley was also registered to have an interest around the same time, but no confirmation was made of talks progressing. CEO of 'Rich Energy', former Haas F1 team sponsor, William Storey was also linked to a takeover deal worth £50 million but that deal never came to fruition.



A recent turn in the tale was on the 10th of March, when Mr Dai and his right-hand man, Reading FC CEO, Dayong Pang issued a statement saying he is open to the sale of Bearwood Park, Reading’s training ground.

 

The training ground, funded by Mr Dai, was opened in 2019 following 3 years of construction and more than £50 million investment. Bearwood hosts three full-size pitches which mirror the dimensions of the pitch at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, a floodlit all-weather pitch and specific warm-up areas. All this is behind a state-of-the-art main building housing a modern gym, multiple changing rooms, and offices for those higher up.



Last Thursday, just four days after the initial proposal to sell, Reading confirmed that local rivals Wycombe Wanderers had entered a period of exclusivity over the proposed sale. The fee was expected to be in the region of £20-25 million, more than half of the cost to purchase the club as a whole.

 

Mr Pang said: “The proposed transaction will directly support the short-term funding of the club until a full sale can be concluded”. A statement from Wycombe also claimed that they would provide financial support to allow the Royals to meet their ongoing financial obligations.


Then on Friday, as Reading fans finished their protest outside Adams Park, a deal was announced by local journalist James Earnshaw to be advancing with a North American group. Since then, it has been uncovered that this was likely to be ‘Sports.com’, a group led by former Newcastle director Majed Al Sorour.

 

However, on Monday, Wycombe put their purchase of Bearwood on hold as they learned about planning permission that prohibited the use of the facilities to anyone besides Reading Football Club.



Wycombe’s potential withdrawal has put the training ground back on the table as part of the deal for those parties interested in a complete takeover. The training ground is the most attractive aspect of the club, being labelled as “Premier League standard” by many at the club.


As a result of the training ground being available again, it is possible some interested parties may re-enter the process with new or re-imagined bids. While it is also possible parties may stay away as dealing with Mr Dai seems no easy feat and a pointless endeavour for many.



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