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Chinese Billionaire to Buy Stake in Atlético Madrid

Chinese property company Dalian Wanda Group Co. is buying a 20% stake in Spanish soccer club Atlético Madrid, making owner Wang Jianlin the latest Asian billionaire to invest in the sport in Europe.

Wanda said Wednesday it would pay 45 million euros ($52 million) for the stake in Atlético, the club that outdid soccer giants Barcelona and Real Madrid to win the title in Spain’s top division—La Liga—last season.

The investment marks the first Chinese buy into a top European soccer team. For Mr. Wang, whose worth is estimated at $13.2 billion according to Forbes magazine’s rich list, the stake is part of a foray into building an entertainment conglomerate, complementing movie theaters and amusement parks.

Mr. Wang said the investment, which gives Wanda a seat on the club’s board, was a bargain. He said that while the deal would further his company’s expansion into entertainment, its main goal was to improve Chinese soccer.

“This time it’s entirely for soccer,” Mr. Wang told reporters. He said Atlético plans to build a new youth training center for Chinese players studying in Spain to nurture future Chinese talent.

A Wanda spokesman said the company will invest 20 million euros annually over the next two years to support the development of 180 young Chinese soccer players in Spain. He said that the company began investing in the development program two years ago.

Atlético said that Wanda’s investment would allow the club “to significantly shore up its balance sheet, as well as accelerate the growth of its brand globally.” The club is building a new stadium and has struggled to match the financial muscle of the biggest European clubs.