South East Wales

Vincent Tan's plan to make Cardiff City a force in Asia

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Media captionVincent Tan says he will spend up to £25m on new players if the club makes it to the Premier League

The Malaysian owner of Cardiff City has spoken publicly for the first time about how he plans to turn the club into a force in Asia.

In an exclusive interview with BBC Wales, Vincent Tan says he will spend up to £25m on new players if City makes it to the Premier League, and defended the controversial re-brand which saw the shirt colours change from blue to red.

I travelled to Kuala Lumpur where I was given behind the scenes access to one of the richest men in Malaysia.

Tan made his first break when he introduced McDonald's to Malaysia in the 1980s.

A few years later he bought the country's main lottery, which remains the cash cow of his diverse business empire.

His group, which is called Berjaya, also has interests in insurance, pharmacy and property.

One of its projects is building what it claims will be the world's largest indoor shopping centre on the outskirts of Beijing called the Great Mall of China.

His investments in Cardiff have come from his private wealth.

He first put in £6m at the club after being asked by his friend Dato Chan Tien Ghee, the current chairman of Cardiff City, around three years ago.

Initially he was in the background as an investor but after loaning the club more than £30m, he decided to play a far more active role when he saw Cardiff lose in the Championship play-offs at the end of last season.

His first move was to carry out the controversial re-brand in an attempt to gain popularity in Asia.

He said: "You look at Man United and Liverpool and they are red - they are much more successful and have a bigger fan base than Chelsea or Manchester City.

Image caption Vincent Tan (R) says he has a good relationship with Bluebirds manager Malky Mackay

"In Asia, red is the colour of joy, red is the colour of festivities and of celebration.

"In Chinese culture, blue is the colour of mourning.

"Of course it is not easy to compete with Man United or even Liverpool because they have a big fan base and they have been around so long and have won so many trophies. So far it looks tough but not impossible.

"So I would like to tell the fans we are doing a good job so give us all the support and have faith that we will do the right thing.

"Why would I want to do stupid things and put in, maybe by the end of the season, £70m in loans and investments into Cardiff and do stupid things? Do I look stupid? No.

"We want to do what is good for Cardiff and for the long-term survival, and hopefully Cardiff can be around for a long time and, God willing, be around in the Premier League."

He has not ruled out carrying out further re-brands if the club, which is currently top of the Championship, is promoted to the Premier League, but he says he has not discussed it at any length.

Historic debt

He also spoke openly about the possibility of renaming the Cardiff City Stadium, with the name Malaysia being added or the name of a major Asian sponsor.

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Media captionVincent Tan says he could spend £25m on the Bluebirds if they win promotion

But the naming rights of the stadium are wrapped up in an historic debt of £19m owed to a company called Langston which is connected to the former chairman Sam Hammam.

The club's last set of accounts show it has debts of £83m. Much of that is owed to Vincent Tan which he says he will convert to shares but will only do so once the Langston debt is dealt with.

He says he will offer the former chairman a combination of shares and money to pay off the debt and will even offer him a place on the board.

He said: "If Sam Hammam loves Cardiff City like he claims he does, he should come and sit down and convert his debt into equity to show his commitment.

"I think it's too sensitive to talk about the details but the principle is we'd like Sam Hammam to come and resolve this, and this is for the good of Cardiff.

"After all, if I had not come along and put in money, Sam Hammam would have had nothing and the club would have gone into administration.

Private jet

"If I was Sam Hammam I would be grateful to someone who has put in so much money."

Tan says he has caught the football bug and often travels to the UK in his private jet to watch matches.

He says he has a good relationship with the manager Malky Mackay and enjoys going into the dressing room to speak to the players, particularly Craig Bellamy.

His son Robin and a number of his senior managers told me they all questioned his decision to buy into a football club, but say when he makes investments he usually does so for the long term.

Tan said: "If the fans welcome me and everybody welcomes me, I can stay a long time, but if I find they are not welcoming and are rude then I may find a new buyer and go off.

"But I want to say this, if I have to leave then I will leave it in good shape."

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