Stanley Choi breaks silence on 'wrong decision' to buy Wigan Athletic

Stanley Choi has broken his silence on his car-crash ownership of Wigan Athletic, insisting: 'We learned a lesson, I learned a lesson.'

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 12:09 pm
The DW Stadium

The 51-year-old's ill-fated 20 months at the helm saw the club propelled on an unstoppable road towards administration - and potentially liquidation.

But incredibly, he believes he was also a victim of events, which kicked off when International Entertainment Corporation - of which Choi remains CEO - purchased the club from long-time owner Dave Whelan in November 2018 for £22million.

Choi remained in the Far East during his time in control, with Darren Royle installed as executive chairman and Darren's father Joe being appointed to the board.

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But he says he watched on with increasing concern with how things were panning out.

“To buy, of course, it’s a wrong decision,” he told the South China Morning Post. “It’s a bad investment, but what can we do? We learned our lesson by paying our price.

“David Sharpe, who was the CEO of the football club, was interviewed in the UK saying, ‘Oh, thank God we could find a buyer. That’s local Wigan people. They keep pouring in money.

“They spend, like, one million UK pounds per month and keep pouring money into it and then they say there’s no hope. You're expected to compete financially but you just can't.

“I have a good friend who claimed he has expertise in football management, so we counted on him to try to manage and try to do it a better way.

“At that time we thought we made a right decision but it turned out ... things didn’t play out as we expected.”

Choi also insists Au Yeung Wai Kai - with whom he entered into a partnership agreement, when IEC offloaded the club to Next Leader Fund LP - was not a friend, as had previously been claimed, but merely 'a buyer', who had not been involved prior to that.

He continued: “No. After, that was Au Yeung. Before, that was a friend. Au Yeung is not a friend at all, (he) is a buyer.”

On the incredulous decision taken to immediately put the club into administration, on July 1 last year, Choi added. “That was a long time ago – our discussion.

"After, I don’t know how he came to a decision. That was something about his funding issue."

Choi also acknowledges the 'really small group of the Wigan fans' who criticised his actions during the whole sorry affair, but stopped short of holding his hand up and apologising.

“For sure, when you make a wrong decision, you pay a price,” he said.

“A really small group of the Wigan fans (criticised), but what can you do?

"I don’t think I could have made any better choice. I wouldn’t be able to do that.

“If we kept the football club, it would be irresponsible to our investors. That’s a public company, I have a duty to all the shareholders.

“Of course, for Wigan, I understand their position, their feeling.

"But that’s not to mention, a lot of clubs have been experiencing the same level of financial problems.

“I did what I thought was good for us and good for the public, and for our shareholders. It was in tough times.”

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