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Six-time Taiwan pro baseball league champion team up for sale

The Lamigo Monkeys.

The Lamigo Monkeys. (CNA photo)

Taipei (CNA) - Six-time Taiwan professional baseball league championship team the Lamigo Monkeys created a bombshell Wednesday when its owner announced that the team is being put up for sale.

The decision, made because of the owner's heavy financial burden, came a week after the Taoyuan-based squad clinched the first half-season champion title of the local Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL).

Speaking to the press to announce the decision, Monkeys general manager Justin Liu (劉玠廷) said that over the last 16 years in the CPBL, the Monkeys have seen the highs and lows of the league, but added that the days of small and medium-sized enterprises running a pro baseball club are over.

Even though his team's management was able to build the Monkeys into a competitive popular unit with limited funding, Liu said that running a pro ball club needs more resources and manpower than can be provided by the Monkeys' mother company.

Liu disclosed that over the last 16 years, the company, Merry Yard International Enterprise Corp. has spent NT$100 million (US$3.18 million) per year, a huge burden for a relatively small company.

"For the longterm development of the Monkeys while keeping up its competitiveness, we believe it is better for a bigger enterprise to run it," he said.

Liu, however, said that the team has yet to engage in talks with any potential buyers and is open to all options, as long as the new owner agrees to keep the team in Taoyuan.

He also stressed that the company will continue to run the Monkeys if no buyers show an interest in taking it over.

Compared with Merry Yard, the owners of the three other CPBL teams are some of the biggest companies in Taiwan.

CTBC Brothers is owned by the CTBC, Taiwan's third-largest publicly traded financial firm by market value, Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions is funded by Uni-President Corp., one of Taiwan's largest conglomerates, while the Fubon Guardians is owned by Fubon Financial Holding Co., Taiwan's second-largest financial holding company by assets.

Known for its successful management of its home stadium in Taoyuan, the Monkeys is the most popular team in the CPBL, with the highest average number of attendances last year -- more than 6,000 per game.

It has also won six CPBL championships and qualified for this year's playoffs after winning the first half-season title June 25.

The last CPBL team to be put up for sale was the Brother Elephants, one of the founding members of the 30-year-old league, in 2013.

The team was sold to the CTBC Financial Holding Co. for NT$400 million (US$13.5 million) that same year.

The news of the Monkeys sale came only months after Ting Hsin International Group (頂新集團) announced that it was reviving the long-disbanded Wei Chuan Dragons, one of the four CPBL founding teams, which disbanded in 1999.

The CPBL last month agreed on Ting Hsin's application to re-enter the league as its fifth team. The team, however, will have to play two seasons in the minor league before competing in CPBL regular season games in 2021. (By Joseph Yeh)