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Yao signs agreement to buy Sharks

BASKETBALL superstar Yao Ming's management team signed a framework agreement yesterday on taking over his former club, which has been facing an uncertain future due to financial problems.

The deal ensures that Yao gets full control of Shanghai Sharks.

The three shareholders in Shanghai Sharks - Shanghai Sports Technical Institute, Shanghai Media Group and Hongqiao Airport - said they were willing to transfer all their shares to Yao, according to Zhang Zhengming, general manager of the Sharks.

The Sharks' three holders are all state-owned but the team will be become a privately held company after Yao takes over.

The steps for the team's transformation were made explicit in the agreement signed yesterday but not revealed to the media, Zhang said.

The transaction amount involved was not disclosed either.

Zhang said the two parties would evaluate the club's assets and "make some adjustments" to ensure that Shanghai Sharks would be admitted by the Chinese Basketball Association in the new season beginning in November.

The adjustments would take at most two months, said Zhang, and the Sharks would then approach the basketball association.

Shanghai Sharks were on the brink of being dropped from the CBA last season as players' salaries were not paid when sponsor Xiyang Group quit after what it called "a hopeless season," with a record of 43 losses, six wins, and second to last of 18 teams.

"I grew up in the city and became a professional player in this team, so I hope I can do something to help," Yao Ming was quoted as saying by Shanghai TV.

Yao said he would still focus on making a recovery from his broken foot with the aim of taking center court again.

Li Qiuping, the coach of Shanghai Sharks, said yesterday that Yao taking over would be good for the team and with streamlined management it would be easier to sign up better players.

Li also coached Yao during his time at the club. Yao was the Sharks' center for nine years, leading the team to the top of the CBA in 2002, the side's only championship since it joined the league in 1996.

He then went on to be a star for the National Basketball Association's Houston Rockets team.


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