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Chinese group completes purchase of Marbella FC

Outgoing president Alexander Grinberg.
Outgoing president Alexander Grinberg. / Julio Rodríguez
  • Zhao Zhen will replace Alexander Grinberg as president, a role he held since January 2013

Marbella FC has passed from Russian to Chinese hands after the Guirenniao Group Limited, based in Hong Kong, acquired a majority shareholding to take control of the club, it was announced on Monday.

The new president is Zhao Zhen, one of the heads of the Asian investment group. He plans to travel to Malaga in the next few days to get to know the club first hand and present his proposal for the future.

This company, which is listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange and brings together a conglomerate of more than a hundred companies, specialises in the development, design, production and sale of sporting clothes and goods.

The intermediary in this operation, the Belgian agency The Best of You, will act in an advisory capacity with the aim of generating “a new momentum at both sporting and structural level," the club said in a statement.

For the time being, there will be no substantial change in the club's hierarchy, apart from the departure of former president Alexander Grinberg. The general manager, María Martos, and the CEO, Teo Bravo, will continue in their roles.

Pending legal action

The statement issued on Monday did not make any reference to the percentage of shares acquired by the Chinese entrepreneur. Despite Grinberg's pending lawsuit with the Belgian group, which means the former president's shares are frozen, the group has found a legal loophole to complete the deal and has received the approval of the Superior Sports Council.

On 27 November the Belgian group is expected to claim its shares after the sale had been agreed in April before Grinberg failed to turn up at the notary’s office and then moved to deny a sale had been agreed, despite the club having announced it officially.

The end of the 'Grinberg era'

On 18 January 2013 Alexander Grinberg took over the reins of a club which was in crisis. Sitting in Tercera (the Spanish fourth tier), the club was at risk of going under.

Grinberg saved the club from liquidation by clearing the debts and then appointed Jaime Molina and Loren who led the team to promotion to Segunda B.

Last season, the side achieved its best ever league position, finishing second with 70 points, but ultimately missed out on promotion through the play-offs.

However, it all started to unravel when Grinberg was arrested as part of 'Oligarkh’ operation against Russian mafia activities and was kept in prison from September 2017 until 8 February this year.

Despite publicly declaring that Marbella was “not for sale", Grinberg opened talks with Saudi, American or Belgian groups having had his assets frozen which meant players’ wages went unpaid.