E-United Group to buy Sinon Bulls

NEXT AT BAT::Group chairman Lin Yi-shou said he bought the team despite knowing it loses about NT$80 million a year, because doing so ‘may contribute to something’

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Dec 09, 2012 - Page 1

The E-United Group (義聯集團), which owns the E-DA Theme Park and several companies in Greater Kaohsiung, yesterday agreed to take over the baseball team Sinon Bulls (興農牛) after nearly three hours of talks with the team’s management and government officials.

The Bulls were one of the four remaining teams in the Chinese Professional Baseball League. Sinon Corp (興農集團), which owns the team, announced in October that its board of directors had passed a resolution to sell the team. The company said that the decision was made due to the economic downturn, which had affected attendance at games. Since the announcement, the government has been trying to assist Sinon in locating a suitable buyer because the team’s disappearance would threaten the existence of the league.

The closed-door meeting yesterday was attended by E-United Group chairman Lin Yi-shou (林義守), Minister Without Portfolio and former Kaohsiung County commissioner Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興), Sports Affairs Council Minister Tai Hsia-ling (戴遐齡) and Sinon Bulls team manager Yang Ren-you (楊仁佑). Lin agreed to take over the team, adding that the group and the team would work out the details next week.

“I think it [the takeover] should have good results,” Yang Chiu-hsing said. “I think the founder of the group [Lin Yi-shou] knows that this is the public’s expectation. The league cannot stop functioning because of one team. It is also about public interest. They still need to work out some details, such as the premium.”

Despite the seeming success in preserving the league from collapse, the group still needs to tackle some of the thorny issues facing the baseball team. The most difficult would be the team’s NT$80 million (US$2.75 million) annual deficit.

Lin said he decided to acquire the team knowing it was not a profitable business.

“Everybody knows that it has lost a lot of money, but sometimes in life you need to try working on things that may contribute to something,” Lin said.

Lin added that many of his friends had tried to talk him out of the deal, and that the same thing happened when he wanted to invest in E-Da Theme Park. However, the theme park worked out well, he said.

Once it is finalized, the deal will allow E-United to tap into a new sector. The group already owns companies in the manufacturing, education, healthcare, real-estate and leisure sectors.

The nation’s baseball is No. 5 in the world in the latest ranking published by the IBAF on Friday, up from No. 7 last year.