Manchester City’s Exiled Owner: Thaksin Shinawatra


When Thaksin Shinawatra bought Manchester
City in 2007, becoming the first Asian owner of a Premier League club, he made quite the entrance. The former Prime Minister of Thailand was
brought on to the stage in Albert Square, where he belted out what can be charitably described as an under-rehearsed rendition of the city
anthem Blue Moon, lyric sheet in hand. But it was taken in good humour. From then on, he was known to the fans as
“Frank”, a billionaire politician and telecoms magnate who promised
to transform a club that had in recent years been in the shadow of Sir Alex Ferguson’s all conquering Manchester United side. But as historic as the moment was, it wouldn’t quite end up that way. AT least not straight away. Thaksin Shinawatara was born into an ethnically
Chinese middle class family in the northern Thai city of Chang Mai. He joined the Royal Police before leaving
to start a computer business which, in turn, morphed into a highly successful mobile
phone corporation that made him a billionaire. He moved into politics, forming the populist
Thai Rak Thai Party and won a landslide election in 2001, harnessing overlooked rural voters, and upsetting Bangkok’s military elite who had been involved in a dozen coup attempts since World War 2. He was persistently dogged with accusations
that he had acquired his wealth through corruption, nepotism and graft, although Thaksin dismissed
them all as lies told by disgruntled opponents. Thaksin grew up loving English football, but
a pivotal moment came in 2001, shortly after his election, when Manchester United came to place the Thai national team in an exhibition match in Bangkok. Huge crowds followed the team wherever they
went and Sir Alex Ferguson presented a grinning Thaksin with a Manchester United
shirt, complete with his name and the number 52, as it was his 52nd birthday. Manchester United won 2-1, in front of 65,000 ecstatic fans. After seeing the power and passion that could
be harnessed from football, Thaksin started looking in 2003 for a club for himself. His first attempt was to buy a 30 per cent
stake in Liverpool, but that floundered after it emerged that one way the funds would be raised was to set up a state lottery, essentially transferring wealth from some of the poorest people on earth to the richest. But there was also the thorny issue of human rights. In 2003 Thaksin’s government had untaken a
brutal crackdown on the meta-amphetamine drug trade. NGOs like Amnesty International and
Human Rights Watch claimed that more than 2,000 died in extra-judicial killings. Thaksin claimed
the military had inflated the figures. Even after he had won re-election in 2005,
the first prime minister in Thailand’s history to peacefully win a second term, plans were afoot to buy a club. But in 2006, when at the UN in New York, and
deeply embroiled in a corruption scandal at home over the sale of his company Shincorp, tanks rolled on to the street to remove him from
power. Despite the human rights concerns, the Premier
League approved his 2007 bid to buy Manchester City for over £80 million. He still had hopes of returning to power. But now Thaksin had a Premier ​
League team to run. He initially wanted to hire Claudio Ranieri
but eventually plumped for Sven Goren Erikson and life as a Premier League
owner could not have begun any better. City won the first three games of the season, including a victory over Manchester United. But as the results worsened, so did his relationship
with Sven, who he sacked, ending his honeymoon period with the fans. The crucial moment, though, was his wife’s conviction on corruption charges in Thailand. Thaksin chose not to return to Thailand for
fear of arrest and has been in exile ever since. The military seized his assets, making it virtually impossible for him to continue funding City, which he said was costing him £4million a month in
wages and transfer payments. “To own a club in the Premier League you
have to have deep, deep, deep, deep pockets,” he said of that time. “It burns your money quickly. I feel very sad I had to sell. I had no money after they froze
my money. I had to borrow here and there.” Thaksin had to sell quickly but there was
a little known buyer who had the cash. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan was a little known but leading member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, one of the emirates of the United Arab Emirates. His family were also one of the richest in
the world, with some estimates of their fortune stretching
into the trillions of dollars. Sheikh mansour bought the club for a rumoured
£150 million, making Thaksin a handsome profit. Overnight, Manchester City became the richest
club in world football and Thaksin’s turbulent year in charge was over. Thaksin has never returned to Thailand. His sister Yingluck, won the 2011 election
that followed the end of military rule. But she too was removed in a coup largely
due to fears in the military that Thaksin might try and use his sister as a
stepping stone to return to power. Today, ay 69, Thaksin is divorced, has lost
half of his $2billion fortune and living between Dubai and Paris. He says football club ownership is now beyond
his means, but there is no doubt that he blazed a trail for other Asian businessmen
to invest in European football. Some of those deals have gone well, like Thaksin’s
former ally and friend Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who bought Leicester City
and later won the Premier League title. Others have not gone so well, like Carston
Yeung’s purchase of Birmingham City in 2010. Yeung has finally been removed from club, but he is now in jail in Hong Kong for money laundering. Thaksin still thinks of his time at Manchester
City everyday. When asked what the strongest
memory of that time was, it wasn’t a specific football match, or his rendition of Blue Moon in Albert Square. “When I went to work in the club, I saw
a group of people and they wore all black, like after funeral. I asked them, “What can I help you with?” they replied, “We are waiting for the official to put the ash of my husband in the pitch.” My god, I never knew this before. He had been a fan for City of 42 years. He passed away and asked to put ash on the pitch.’ He seemed as surprised by that in 2017 as he had in 2007.

64 Replies to “Manchester City’s Exiled Owner: Thaksin Shinawatra

  1. So the irony is that if United didn't tour Thailand, Thaskin would not have purchased city and eventually sell it. As a city fan I will like to thank United for making us the richest club in the world!

  2. > "42 years a City fan, asks to be buried on the pitch after his death"
    > Rival fans yet to hit puberty: "oh but City have no fans ("lol" "lmao" "emoji emoji")"

  3. I wonder how many of the current City supporters that I frequently come across on the internet have been a life long, or will be a lifelong City supporter.

  4. Joe Devine saying the name of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha sounded like that hurdle he knew was coming, but definitely felt a little nervous about. 😉

  5. A lot of YouTube channels seem to be going stale, but this one is definitely on the rise! These videos are well put and very informative.
    I don't know if you guys do requests, but a video explaining the UEFA Nations League would be much appreciated.

  6. I'm from Thailand, Thaksin and his whole family were very corrupted (like any businessman and politician but especially in South East Asia). He was handing out bribes and money to the poor in the rural area to garner his votes and that's how he came to power. His whole family was borrowing so much money out of the country's treasury to appease the poor by buying all the rice from farmers but were unable to sell them to make profit and the rice were left to rot. This plunged our country in debt never seen before. His sister was supposed to go on trial last week for this but fled the country as well. Politics aside, i'd have to say that this is spot on. Well done!

  7. Fantastic video guys 🙂 As a Thai citizen who loves both football and politics, I am absolutely delighted that you guys have given us some exposure and made this video in a very non-biased way. I don't want to say too much given that this is still a very sensitive subject in Thailand, but the video was very well executed and there are no factual points which I would disagree with. Fantastic video, keep it up 🙂

    Nice try with Thai pronunciations, as a non-native speaker I feel your pain

  8. A forgotten highlight of the Shinawatra era was the purchase of Vincent Kompany for £6 million about a month before the club was sold to the Abu Dhabi group.

  9. i want my ashes to be laid at the bernabeu. gotta make sure they play the champions league anthem while they're doing it too

  10. Thaksin left us in an awful position financially and we could well have been another Leeds or Portsmouth. His 'big-money' signings were all paid with borrowed money with big interest fees. Thank goodness that ADUG came in and immediately wrote off those debts and transformed the club forever.

  11. Can you make a video about Antonio Valencia and why he is so important for Manchester United? He plays there for almost 9 years. Is 32 years old. During his time at United there are so many players that came and left but he stayed, why?

  12. Thai for thai they just dont want Chinese to run their country… if thaksin was pure thai he wont have all this harasment from army junta…

  13. All those corruptions filed against him were fake. Pls look at Thailand now without him. If the election were to happen now his party will definitely still win by miles.

  14. won an election by landside. won a second term by landslide
    his sister also won another election BY LANDSLIDE

    BOTH ARE REMOVED BY MILITARY DICTATORSHIP
    really makes you think huh?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *