Chinese Chairman of Inter Milan Football Club Ordered to Repay US$255 Million Debt

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Steven Zhang Kangyang, chairman of Italian Serie A team Inter Milan and son of former Suning Appliance Group chairman Zhang Jindong, was ruled by the Chinese High Court on July 19 to pay a debt of US$255 million.

Zhang Kangyang was petitioned by China Construction Bank (CCB) last year on behalf of his creditors to recover the above debt. Judge Chan Kin-keung of the Court of First Instance adjudicated that CCB won the case, and Zhang had to pay the other party’s litigation costs.

The case involved the chain convenience store program “Suning small shops” launched by the Suning Group. In August 2020, a company controlled by Zhang Kangyang, which acted as a borrower, reached a financing agreement of US$165 million with the creditors and has a mortgage note of US$85 million due in 2021. Zhang Kangyang signed the relevant creditor agreements, so he was requested to repay.

Zhang Kangyang argued that he did not know about the financing agreement. He vaguely stated that some employees may have forged his signature and has provided reports from handwriting experts to prove his case. However, the judge said that since the documents’ signatures were consistent with most of the samples supplied by Zhang. There were more than 20 copies of documents to be signed for this agreement; he refused to accept that the signatures were a forgery and ruled that Zhang Kangyang should be held responsible for the debt.

Suning is in Financial Trouble

Suning Group, one of China’s top 3 B2C companies, acquired nearly 70 percent of Inter Milan’s equity in 2016. Steven Zhang Kangyang became chairman of Inter Milan in 2018 when he was only 26 years old. However, in recent years, Suning has been in financial difficulties and has over one hundred billion Chinese yuan debts. Steven Zhang Kangyang’s father, Zhang Jindong, the founder of Suning.com (the listed company), resigned last year from the board of directors.

As of Dec. 31, 2021, Suning Group’s total liabilities reached 139.709 billion Chinese yuan (US$20.7 billion), and overdue payments totaled about 32.893 billion yuan (US$4.86 billion). Suning shares dropped from 15.83 Chinese Yuan (US$2.34) on June 1, 2018, to 2.11 Yuan (US$0.31) on July 27.

Recent news from Mainland China indicates that five suppliers have already applied to the Nanjing Municipal Court for bankruptcy of Suning.com Co Ltd.

Ying Cheung

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