Orient Hontai Capital, the discreet and ambitious Chinese shareholder of Mediapro

At the Parc de Princes, in Paris, on September 13.

But who is Orient Hontai Capital, the Chinese company that took control of Mediapro in early 2018, just before the company took over the TV rights to Ligue 1? The Sino-Spanish group is at the heart of a conflict with the Professional Football League (LFP), since it missed a deadline of 172 million euros in early October, and is trying to renegotiate the amount of rights paid to tricolor clubs.

According to legal information available on the Qichacha financial site, Orient Hontai Capital is 51% owned by Orient Securities, a financial heavyweight in China, which counts the Municipality of Shanghai among its shareholders. Its legal representative, Chen Bo, is also present on the board of directors of several other subsidiaries of Orient Securities. The remaining 49% is held by Yunzhuo Capital Investment, whose legal representative is none other than Tony Ma, CEO of Orient Hontai Capital.

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The company, created in 2014, presents itself as an investment fund specializing in technologies, media and biotechnologies. In 2016, she almost won a Californian online marketing nugget, AppLovin, for $ 1.4 billion (1.2 billion euros). But the Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States opposed it, and Orient Hontai recovered its stake, to keep only a minority stake. Since then, the fund regularly crunches start-ups for several tens of millions of euros. Its last investment dates from September 18, 400 million yuan (34 million euros) in XWPharma, a medical research start-up, located in Wuhan (Hubei), which also brought into its capital the American Johnson & Johnson, pharmacy heavyweight.

Has the Chinese fund had eyes bigger than its stomach

Faced with the crisis in Ligue 1, the fund chose discretion, leaving Mediapro and its president, Jaume Roures, to answer questions from the media and the LFP. The CEO, Tony Ma, is unreachable. One of the partners, Howill Wong, replies that he “Is probably not appropriate to answer an interview at this time”. According to legal information, the company has opened offices in Beijing, Shanghai, which have since closed, and Chengdu (Sichuan). But at the address given in Shanghai, no one has ever seen Orient Hontai Capital. The 24e floor of this office building does not even exist, as often in China, the number 4, which is pronounced like “to die”, bringing bad luck. Upstairs, a secretary says she’s never seen anyone from the company, but people drop by from time to time to inquire about her.

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