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S'pore billionaire Lim joins list of Asian soccer club owners

SINGAPORE -- Singapore billionaire Peter Lim, the new owner of Valencia, has realized a long-held dream by buying a top European soccer club — and will hope for better fortunes than some of his fellow Asian investors.

Publicity-shy Lim, a fishmonger's son who made his wealth by investing in a palm oil company, is an avid Manchester United fan who nonetheless was linked to a bid for their arch-rivals Liverpool in 2010.

On Saturday, patrons of the Valencia Foundation unanimously approved 60-year-old Lim's proposal to take a 70.4-percent stake in the debt-stricken Spanish club, which twice reached the Champions League final.

Valencia's hierarchy has been looking for investors since principal creditor Bankia refused to refinance the combined 306 million euro (US$530 million) debt the club and its foundation has with the bank.

Lim has an estimated US$2.4 billion fortune and owns a string of Manchester United-themed bars in Asia. The father of two is married to former actress Cherie Lim.

With 11-storey home in Singapore's plush Orchard Road district, according to reports, and a fleet of 25 Ferraris, Lim appears to have the means to prop up the six-time La Liga champions.

Valencia fans may be forgiven for some trepidation, however, with clubs experiencing mixed fortunes after being snapped up by foreign owners.

In the most extreme case, ex-Hong Kong hairdresser-turned-Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung was jailed for six years for money-laundering in March.

The club was relegated from the English Premier League in 2011 and only survived dropping to England's third tier on the last day of the season earlier this month.

Similarly, Indian poultry firm Venky's bought Blackburn Rovers for 23 million pounds in November 2010. Amid a stream of negative headlines, the club followed Birmingham out of the Premier League in 2012.

Malaysian tycoon Vincent Tan provoked anger from fans of Welsh club Cardiff City, nicknamed “the Bluebirds,” when he changed their kit color from blue to red, saying it was a luckier color.

Cardiff, after winning promotion to the Premier League last year under Tan, have now been relegated again in a season marked by a row over the dismissal of their manager Malky Mackay.

And Malaysian budget airline impresario Tony Fernandes has also seen his plans for a revamp at Queens Park Rangers stumble, after the London club dropped out of the Premier League last year.

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