The Lamigo Monkeys’ management yesterday said that the baseball club are being sold after years of running deficits.
The announcement came as a shock to fans, as the team have been the nation’s most successful professional baseball team over the past decade.
“We have begun the process of finding a new owner for the club,” Lamigo general manager Justin Liu (劉玠廷) said, adding that the team would remain intact and the rights of their players protected.
Photo: Hsieh Wu-hsiung, Taipei Times
The team would continue taking part in the playoffs with the goal of retaining their Chinese Professional Baseball League’s (CPBL) championship title.
“The era of small to medium-sized enterprises running the business operations of professional baseball teams is over,” Liu said. “Therefore we had to make this difficult and regretful decision.”
“Over the past few years, the business environment for professional baseball has undergone many changes, with the CPBL making good progress and setting up a farm team system... Our club have strived to expand their fan base, improve sales and marketing, and achieve winning records, but we have found that we are unable to keep up with the changes in this new era,” Liu said.
The current ownership began in 2003, when Liu Pao-yu (劉保佑), Justin Liu’s father and founder of Merry Yard International Enterprise (達達集團) and Taiwanese shoe manufacturer La New Corp, bought the former Taiwan Major League’s First Agan club, and changed the team’s name to La New Bears, based in Kaohsiung.
In 2011, the club were moved to Taoyuan and renamed Taoyuan Lamigo Monkeys, with Liu Pao-yu serving as their chairman.
The Lamigo Monkeys surged into the year-end Taiwan Series finals in 2011, before losing the title to the Uni-President Lions, but then went on to win the championship title five times starting in 2012, and the CPBL title in four of the past five years.
However, the Monkeys’ successes on the field strained their finances, as the club’s management had to expand the payroll, and boost salaries to retain star players and attract new talent. It also had to increase the team’s operating budget year after year to meet rising costs and keep up with other teams.
When President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) met with Lamigo players in March, Liu Pao-yu told her: “Operating a professional baseball team is very difficult... Through the past 16 years, we have lost NT$1.6 billion [US$51.40 million at the current exchange rate].”
Liu Pao-yu had publicly talked about the team running deficits, despite being the most successful club in the past few years, saying that he had contemplated on many occasions putting the club up for sale.
“We are facing more difficult times. The current payroll is three times the amount when I took over in 2003, but we do not have the same increase in revenue,” he said last month.
He pointed out the limited market and fan base in Taiwan when discussing the Weichuan Dragons rejoining the CPBL at the time.
It had been rumored that financial conglomerate Shinkong Group (新光集團) would buy out the Lamigo Monkeys, but Justin Liu did not confirm the rumor, saying only that Shin Kong would be one of the club’s new sponsors.
The CPBL has been running with four teams since 2008: the Lamigo Monkeys, the Uni-President Lions, the Brothers Baseball Club and the Fubon Guardians.
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