Friday, June 6, 2014, 08:23
Ma's deal disappoints his hometown
By Yan Yiqi in Hangzhou

Ma's deal disappoints his hometown

Song Weiping, chairman of Zhejiang Greentown Group and owner of Hangzhou Greentown Football Club

Internet tycoon Ma Yun's purchase of a Guangzhou soccer club is sparking backlash from residents of his hometown Hangzhou.

Ma is chairman of Alibaba Group, China's largest e-commerce company. On Thursday, the firm announced it was buying a 50 percent stake in Chinese Super League club Guangzhou Evergrande.

The deal has made Ma unpopular in Hangzhou, where Alibaba is headquartered.

Song Weiping, chairman of Greentown China Holdings Ltd - which owns the Hangzhou Greentown, another CSL club - told Xinhua News Agency that Ma chose to buy Guangzhou Evergrande instead of Hangzhou Greentown because he despises the poor and wants to curry favor with the rich.

Fans of Hangzhou Greentown expressed their disappointment on Thursday. Xie Kanzhe, who heads an amateur soccer club in the Zhejiang capital, said all of his club members are unhappy.

"We really expected Ma to purchase Hangzhou Greentown. With his money, we expected another giant Chinese club to emerge," he said.

Xie said they are most disappointed in Ma's decision to overlook a rising team and invest in a successful club.

"For businessmen, Evergrande will surely bring in more profits then Greentown. But I think soccer should not be a tool for businessmen to make money," he said.

Wu Qi, another Greentown fan, said he has already transferred his money out of his account on Yu'ebao, the online financial product from Alibaba, as his way of protesting Ma's decision.

"He double-crossed us. Last month he approached Hangzhou Greentown and now he has purchased another team. Emotionally, I cannot accept this," he said.

Earlier in May, Song, the chairman of Greentown China Holdings Ltd, said Ma would purchase a 49 percent stake in Hangzhou Greentown. Three days after Song's announcement, Ma visited Hangzhou Greentown's training center. On May 27, Ma said at a meeting that Alibaba had already cooperated with the Greentown Group in a couple of economic deals while he was still mulling the purchase of Hangzhou Greentown.

In response to Song's comments, Ma said on Thursday he believes that Song is not a jealous person.

"His accusation is his own way of expressing his care and attention toward me," he said. "I know Zhejiang fans might be unhappy."

Ma also said he chose Guangzhou over Hangzhou because Song knows too much about soccer, while he on the other hand is still learning the game.

Qui Quanlin in Guangzhou contributed to this story.