Fresh from his company’s high profile link-up with Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia founder, Lotus F1 team principle and all-round entreprenur Tony Fernandes has joined the English football premiership jet-set by today formally completing a deal to buy west London football club Queens Park Rangers. Fernandes has taken a 66% stake in the club, which returned to the top tier of English football (at least for now) after a 15-year absence last week – with a less than encouraging 4-0 home defeat to Bolton.
Undeterred (and maybe having knocked a pound or two off the purchase price after that result), Fernandes completed the deal for the majority stake in the club today. Here he is enjoying manager Neil Warnock’s autobiography and with his new QPR shirt hanging in the background – we’ll ignore the fact that number one should really have been the goalkeeper’s shirt.
Keen followers of Fernandes might be surprised to see him turn up at Loftus Road rather than his beloved West Ham – who he was previously linked to buying. “Everyone knows I’ve followed West Ham all my life,” he says, “but I’ve always had a soft spot for QPR.”
The deal keeps up the airline connection at QPR – Gulf Air having only just ended its three-year shirt sponsorship of the club - indeed QPR kicked off the new season without a shirt sponsor.
It joins a string of airline connections with English football clubs – ranging from Etihad at free-spending Manchester City, the Emirates name for Arsenal’s home ground to EasyJet’s sponsorship of English conference league team Luton Town.
It remains to be seen whether Fernandes has as much success guiding QPR – whom he describes as a raw diamond – to success as he has AirAsia.