Published on Oct 28, 2014
The Straits Times
By Wang Meng Meng
Last Saturday, billionaire investor Peter Lim received an extraordinary welcome from the fans of Spanish football club Valencia.
A YouTube video uploaded by the club shows the billionaire arriving at the Mestalla Stadium last Saturday night for the home game against Elche, which Valencia won 3-1.
Lim was in the Spanish port city to finalise his ownership of the club.
Earlier that day, it was confirmed that he had reached an agreement with Bankia - the Spanish bank that held most of the club's €200 million (S$323 million) debt - on the restructuring of the club's finances. That has paved the way for him to buy a 70 per cent stake in Valencia.
Stepping out of a luxury sedan, Lim was giving a warm handshake and hug by Valencia president Amadeo Salvo. Cameras zoomed in on the masses of fans, who chanted the Singaporean's name feverishly, as if they were welcoming a new star striker.
Accompanied by his wife, former actress Cherie, Lim posed for photographs and was later escorted to a balcony in the stadium, where he and Salvo waved at the delighted fans below.
The 61-year-old, estimated to be worth US$2.05 billion (S$2.6 billion) by Forbes Singapore, has bought Valencia for €420 million in total, with €200 million to clear the club's debts and £170 million to complete construction of a new stadium.
He has also splashed €45 million on two Benfica players - striker Rodrigo Moreno, 22, and midfielder Andre Gomes, 20.
Without a league title in 10 years and a trophy since the Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup in 2008, Valencia were crippled by debt until Lim started buyout talks a year ago.
Rejuvenated by the hope offered by the Singaporean, Valenncia have surged up to fourth in the 20-team La Liga on 20 points, two points behind leaders Barcelona.