Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan has agreed in principle to sell the English football club to a Hong Kong-listed company, highlighting the appeal of even lower-league clubs to wealthy foreign investors.
The International Entertainment Corporation (IEC), controlled by the family of the late Hong Kong property tycoon Cheng Yu-tung, said it had been given an exclusive two-week window until February 14 to negotiate the terms of the deal with footballer turned owner Whelan.
The takeover, "if materialised, represents a good opportunity to diversify the income stream of the company and broaden its revenue base," IEC said in a financial statement.
Whelan, 81, took over at Wigan in 1995 and presided over their rise from the fourth tier to the Premier League a decade later. The club currently sit top of the table in the third-tier League One.
The Hong Kong-based group, incorporated in the Cayman Islands, describes itself as a hotel operator and also manages the "leasing of properties for casino and ancillary leisure and entertainment operations".
The group owns the AG New World Manila Bay Hotel and casino in the Philippines capital. Its current chairman, Stanley Choi, is a professional poker player, according to China Sports Insider.
The Cheng family is also at the helm of a sprawling business empire including real estate developer New World Development and the Chow Tai Fook jewellery chain which has a strong presence across East Asia.