A Chinese company just bought West Bromwich Albion

Guochuan LaiWest Bromwich AlbionWest Brom’s new owner Guochuan Lai.

Premier League club West Bromwich Albion has been sold to Chinese investment groupYunyi Guokai Sports Development, the club announced on Friday on its website.

Jeremy Peace, the club’s chairman of 14 years, has also agreed to step down and will be replaced by former Blackburn executive John Williams.

Peace said that he believed the deal would “enable Albion to build on the strong, sustainable foundations that have been the cornerstone of the Club’s progress.”

Guochuan Lai, controlling shareholder of Yunyi Guokai, was quick to assure fans that there would be no big changes for now:

“I am excited and privileged to have the chance to become the new owner of this great Club. My immediate priorities will be to maintain the Club’s stable structure, respecting its well-run nature and its heritage. I have no intention of changing the Club’s ethos.”

Lai was previously in charge of a landscaping company called Palm before retiring in May 2014. It is currently valued at £1.8 billion ($2.4 billion) on the Chinese stock exchange.

Part of Palm’s vision is to design “eco-towns,” a statement on West Brom’s website reads, and football is set to be a big part of those towns. In fact the company is “helping to accelerate the Chinese Government’s plans to develop football in the country and provide significant future commercial and cultural opportunities for West Bromwich.”

The deal is one of a number of Chinese takeovers of English football clubs in recent years. Aston Villa and Wolverhampton are now owned by Chinese companies, while Premier League giant Manchester City is part owned by a Chinese state-backed consortium.

Football is a major part of China’s planned cultural push over the next decade, with President Xi pledging to turn the country into a “great sports nation” and create a $760 billion sports industry by 2025, according to the Financial Times.

West Brom kicks off the new Premier League season at Crystal Palace on August 13.

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