Lamigo Monkeys’ officials yesterday said that the club would still play home games at the Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium following its sale to Tokyo-based Rakuten Inc, an electronics and Internet firm.
Rakuten and La New Corp, the former owner, made the official announcement at a news conference in Taipei that was attended by Lamigo general manager Justin Liu (劉玠廷), Rakuten Asia chief operating officer Takashi Watanabe, Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) commissioner John Wu (吳志揚) and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles general manager Kawada Yoshinori.
“La New has reached an agreement with Rakuten in which our shares in Lamigo would be completely sold to the Japanese corporation,” Liu said, adding that it began the procedure on July 3.
Even though the team attracted many suitors after it announced in July that it was looking for a buyer, Liu said that Rakuten was the most active one.
They quickly reached a deal, as they shared similar ideas on how the team should be managed, he said.
Rakuten pledged to keep the club’s administrative staff and remain in Taoyuan, he said.
Asked how much Rakuten paid to acquire La New’s stake, Watanabe declined to disclose the exact amount, as both sides signed a nondisclosure agreement.
“We have yet to decide on a new name following the change of ownership,” Watanabe said. “We are discussing several possibilities, but it is certain that ‘Lamigo’ will be no longer be part of it.”
Watanabe said that Rakuten would discuss keeping Liu as general manager, as he and his father, Monkeys founder Liu Pao-yu (劉保佑), are passionate about what they do.
Liu said that La New would continue managing the team through the second half of this season, the Taiwan Series, the World Baseball Softball Confederation Championship and a farewell game for fans.
“Before we hand the team over to Rakuten, we would continue to do our jobs,” Justin Liu said. “I do not think too much about the future. At the moment, I am just focused on taking the team higher and making sure that our experience is passed on to the new management.”
He also spoke about the difficulty of financing the team and his expectations of the new owners.
“La New is a small corporation and we could only cover costs by focusing on selling tickets, boxed lunches and team merchandise,” he said. “However, Rakuten runs e-commerce and financial technology businesses apart from managing sports teams, which helps market teams.”
The CPBL’s regulations stipulate that foreign investors can hold no more than a 49 percent stake in a baseball team if it is a new team entering the league, but the Rakuten transfer involves an existing team selling ownership to a foreign investor, Wu said.
The rules do not limit foreign investment for ownership changes, he said.
The deal would be accepted by the league as long as its executive council — formed by other teams in the league — agree, Wu said.
The deal is likely to be approved by the executive council, he added.
Rakuten has been running its e-commerce business in Taiwan for 10 years and has secured a virtual bank license from the Financial Supervisory Commission, he said, adding that it is buying a well-managed team.
The deal would generate discussion among fans, boost ticket sales and facilitate the exchange of professional baseball teams between Taiwan and Japan, he said.
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