English Premier League side Liverpool are a target of an £800m takeover bid by a state-backed Chinese consortium, according to media reports.
The Financial Times said China Everbright and private equity firm PCP Capital Partners were behind the multi-million pound bid.
Talks between the Chinese group and Liverpool’s American owners, the Fenway Sports Group (FSG), were ongoing, the Sunday Times said.
US firm Fenway acquired Liverpool for £300m in 2010. The latest reported bid is said to value the club at more than £700m.
But a Liverpool source told AFP that although the club was open to outside investment, FSG was not in talks, and the club was not the subject of a bid. On Friday, Liverpool chairman Tom Werner said the club was “not for sale”, but said FSG was open to the idea of selling a stake.
In recent years, Chinese investors and firms have quietly been acquiring stakes in football clubs in England, Spain, France, Netherlands and the Czech Republic, while President Xi Jinping has professed a love of the game.
Earlier this month, Liverpool’s Premier League rivals West Bromwich Albion announced a deal to sell the club to a Chinese investment group headed by entrepreneur Guochuan Lai.
Second-tier clubs Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers, both of whom play in the same Midlands region as West Brom, have both been taken over by Chinese investors. Wolves were bought by Fosun International, while Chinese businessman Tony Xia took charge of Villa.
In December last year, Manchester City’s parent company, City Football Group, sold a 13% stake, worth £265m, to a consortium of Chinese investors.
According to Deloitte’s Football Money League, Liverpool are the ninth richest football club in the world, with revenues of €391.8m (£339m) in the 2014-15 season.