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Baseball club owner forced to give up share after losing legal battle

2018/01/13 17:50

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SEOUL, Jan. 13 (Yonhap) -- The owner of the South Korean baseball club Nexen Heroes will be forced to give up a 40-percent share of the team after losing his court battle Saturday.

The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Heroes and upheld a lower court's decision in favor of Hong Sung-eun, a Korean-American businessman who claimed he never got the stake of the Heroes that Lee had promised him.

Hong, chairman of the Atlanta-based real estate developer Rainier Group, has alleged that he was promised a 40-percent share of the Heroes after investing 2 billion won (US$1.9 million) in 2008.

Lee denied he ever promised Hong any shares of the Seoul-based ball club. But in December 2012, the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board ordered the Heroes to give Hong his 40-percent stake, rejecting the team's appeal to deny the businessman a share.

In this file photo taken Aug. 16, 2016, Lee Chang-suk, the owner of the South Korean baseball club Nexen Heroes, enters a Seoul court for hearing. (Yonhap) In this file photo taken Aug. 16, 2016, Lee Chang-suk, the owner of the South Korean baseball club Nexen Heroes, enters a Seoul court for hearing. (Yonhap)

The Heroes filed a suit at the Seoul Central District Court to nullify the board's ruling and lost. They appealed the ruling but withdrew, only to file another suit.

The Supreme Court's decision on Saturday threatens to alter the future of the Heroes, which joined the Korea Baseball Organization before the 2008 season in place of the cash-strapped Hyundai Unicorns. The Heroes have had their share of financial trouble and have sold off star players for cash.

Lee is the majority owner, with a 67.56-percent stake. Local businessman Park Ji-hwan is next with 24.39 percent. Former Heroes general manager Cho Tae-ryong still has a 4.88-percent share in the baseball team.

Despite problems in the front office, the Heroes have enjoyed some success on the field. They made four consecutive postseasons from 2013 to 2016 and recently re-acquired MVP-winning slugger Park Byung-ho, who spent the past two years with the Minnesota Twins.

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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