Shinsegae in talks to purchase pro baseball club from SK Telecom

January 25, 2021

 South Korean retail giant Shinsegae said Monday it is on the verge of purchasing a professional baseball club from the country’s largest mobile carrier, catching even members of the team by surprise a week before the start of spring training.

In a vague statement, Shinsegae, South Korea’s No. 2 retailer, said it is in talks with SK Telecom over “ways in which to improve South Korean sports, including professional baseball.” More details will be made available once the talks are completed, Shinsegae added.

In this file photo from Oct. 11, 2020, members of the SK Wyverns celebrate their 9-5 victory over the Kia Tigers in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)
This image provided by Shinsegae Group on March 7, 2020, shows its logo. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)
In this file photo from Oct. 16, 2020, members of the SK Wyverns celebrate their 7-1 victory over the KT Wiz in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. (Yonhap)

In this file photo from Oct. 11, 2020, members of the SK Wyverns celebrate their 9-5 victory over the Kia Tigers in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

SK Telecom currently owns the SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). Based in Incheon, about 40 kilometers west of Seoul, the Wyverns joined the league in 2000 after taking over from the defunct Sssangbangwool Raiders.

The Wyverns have won four Korean Series championships, most recently in 2018. They played in six consecutive Korean Series from 2007 to 2012, tied with two other clubs for the longest such streak.

The Wyverns had a dismal 2020 campaign, however, finishing in ninth place among 10 clubs at 51-92-1 (wins-losses-ties), which included a 10-game losing streak in the season’s first month.

Their manager, Youm Kyoung-youb, fell unconscious during a June game, having suffered from health problems compounded by the stress of losing. They hired their former pitching coach Kim Won-hyoung as new manager in November last year and have also overhauled their roster through free agent signings and trades. Their revamped front office has a new CEO and general manager in place, too.

The Wyverns’ spring training starts next Monday on the southern island of Jeju.

A high-ranking club official said SK Telecom is handling all matters related to the potential sale. Another official, though, said most club employees found out about the negotiations from news reports and added, “A lot of them don’t know what to make of this development.”

One player admitted he never expected the Wyverns to be put up for sale because he hadn’t noticed any problems with team operations or management.

Shinsegae Group Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin is known as a baseball enthusiast. Shinsegae previously operated a women’s pro basketball team, and it holds a 14.5 percent stake in another KBO club, the Samsung Lions.

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