Retired ping pong legend Deng Yaping is back to the sports industry – not as a player, but as an investor.
Deng is running an investment fund named after herself, working with the government of Henan, Deng’s home province in central China. The fund, with a size of RMB five billion (USD 739 million) is supported by Centaline Wealth Management Limited, Henan local media Dahe.cn reported.
The first tranche of the fund is RMB 500 million, which will focus on investing in fields such as sports events, stadiums, sports equipment, training and rehabilitation, sports media, and sports exhibitions.
“As a brilliant table tennis player from Henan, Deng is an iconic figure of our sports industry,” said Huang Jiaming, head of the Henan sports bureau’s economic management department. “We believe that Deng will excel in selecting and managing projects with potential, and introducing more resources to help boost the sports industry in Henan.”
Once having secured the No.1 Seed title for eight consecutive years from 1990 to 1997, Deng is known in China as a ping pong legend. Yet her achievements beyond the sports arena are also remarkable.
In 1998, the 25-year-old Deng retired from table tennis. She then worked hard and earned a bachelor’s degree from Tsinghua University, followed by a master’s degree from The University of Nottingham, and a PhD from Oxford University.
She took positions at the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games and at the State General Administration of Sports. From 2010 to 2016, she worked as the deputy secretary general of the state-run People’s Daily, and as the general manager of Jike, a state-owned search engine.
This June, Deng officially resigned from her post at People’s Daily to work on investing in the sports industry. The fund named after her will also invest in enterprises in sports-related industries such as culture, traveling, technology, and medical care.
Tech giants in China also have their own plans in the sports industry. Alibaba established its Alibaba Sports Group in 2015, using big data to create value. Tencent Sports positions itself as a sports media platform; it acquired full NBA media rights for five seasons in 2015 for USD 500 million. Baidu introduced in 2015 the platform Baidu Golf, which covers more than 370 golf courses in China, allowing users to complete a booking within 10 seconds. LeEco has LeSports that focuses on sports events, sports gadgets, and value-added services; it secured Series B financing of USD 1.2 billion this March.
The growth of sports industries in China is yet to reach its peak, and it is an area that is being increasingly intertwined with China’s tech companies.