At home with Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung
Carson Yeung, owner of Birmingham City FC, talks to Colin Tattum during Blues’ recent visit to the Far East and explains his plans for the club.
He is simply referred to as ‘The Boss’.
Carson Yeung’s Hong Kong staff at Birmingham City – including his right-hand man Peter Pannu – as well as those in his home city all describe him thus.
Yeung is in charge of Blues' destiny. He calls the shots.
Having spent a fortnight on tour in Hong Kong and China with Blues during their landmark pre-season trip, that became clear.
Still, the question needed to be put to him, even though he had invited me to his £8 million apartment situated high up on The Peak, Hong Kong’s most desirable piece of real estate.
“Of course I’m the main man,” he laughed. “We hold 96 per cent of Birmingham, my business.”
That business is Birmingham International Holdings Limited, the firm that purchased Blues for £81.5 million in October, ending the 16-year reign of David Sullivan, the Gold brothers and Karren Brady.
Yeung has just increased his personal stake in BIHL to beyond 30 per cent, but many people wonder – or perhaps want to believe – whether there is a ‘Mr Big’ in the background.
Not so. Yeung is driving Blues through BIHL and the other investors are business partners, associates and friends, keen to be part of the adventure.
Sure, it’s hard to pin down who exactly they are, and there is a reluctance to name names. Plus some want privacy.
And that is the way of things in China.
The Blues view is what you see, is what you get – it’s Yeung’s show. The deeds he does for Blues are, and will be, worth more than any words. He is, indeed ‘The Boss’.
According to the latest set of BIHL accounts, Yeung has agreed to underwrite the company after liabilities of £35 million were revealed.
That figure should not set alarm bells ringing, the Yeung camp have insisted, because their business model is in its infancy.
Yeung has a huge house in Wimbledon, and he is looking for property in the Midlands too.
The multi-level apartment on The Peak is his Hong Kong residence, where he is attended to by at least two maids.
Slippers are laid out at the entrance for visitors but your correspondent didn’t get the same attention to detail as Yeung – when we moved upstairs to the rooftop terrace they would rush to take his shoes and slippers on and off.
Yeung had agreed to do a television interview and extended the opportunity to visit his home to the Birmingham Post.
In the understated, yet stylish lounge, a re-run of the Spain-Chile game from the World Cup was playing on a large Plasma television. Yeung loves his football – and he loves his Blues.
Yeung, relaxed in a tailored silk suit, told me: “Yes, sure, I am here for the long term. Some people might not think this, but it is true.
“The fact is, you can see it. By what has been done so far and what we are trying to do. You are here in Hong Kong, you can see around you.
“All the fans love me now, they know me. I’m a work-hard guy. I think they know what I am like – and I won’t let them down.
“My dream? I will promote Birmingham to be a strong team in a few years.
“But I am not in a rush at the moment. I have said before that I would buy good players for not just this season, but for many seasons.
“We have to do it by steps,” said Yeung. “I don’t want us to be number one tomorrow, it has to be done by steps.”
Yeung’s business portfolio is varied. He owns Sing Pao newspaper and a magazine as part of his media arm, he has interests in casinos, energy, water and property.
The popular myth has him starting off as a hairdresser. In reality, he was the owner of a salon in Kowloon.
“It became a chain of salons and I was also in the fashion business and expanded into clothing, and from there into other businesses.”
His priorities have changed now though.
“Maybe a quarter, a half of my life is to do with Birmingham City. It’s because I love it. I love Birmingham.”