From dishwasher to billionaire: Mr Bee only had eyes for AC Milan

INTERVIEW: In an exclusive with Goal, the Thai businessman tells the story of how he achieved financial success and why he pursued a deal with the Rossoneri
By Kris Voakes | International Football Correspondent

While Juventus were busy securing a fourth successive Scudetto on Saturday, AC Milan were making their own huge step into a future that could bring about even greater glory. The timing was uncanny.

After months of negotiations, Bee Taechaubol agreed terms to buy a sizeable stake in the Rossoneri. And while there was no immediate confirmation as to whether the purchase will lead to the Thai entrepreneur becoming a majority shareholder, his is a portfolio that any club would love to add to their ranks.

"I was a dishwasher at 14 and was in real estate by the time I was 16," Mr Bee told Goal prior to Saturday's announcement. "I worked in the restaurant my parents owned as they were insistent that we must learn the value of work.

"Then I set up an online real estate marketing company which made a huge profit on the stock exchange and went from there.

"But while my family held a huge amount of stock in Thailand, the Asian financial crisis in 1997 led to us actually having the largest debt. When I left Australia, where I had grown up and also gained a qualification in civil engineering, I had only AUS$2,000 to my name.

"I went into several industries after that to make my living. Thankfully, I have been involved in lots of companies in which I have bought low and sold high."

His primary focus is his private equity firm Thai Prime, which invests in public companies and has a high success rate for turning around struggling businesses into huge players in their markets. With interests in a number of sectors - including financial services, construction, property, technology, parking, traffic infrastructure, sports and payment gateways - the company has become a leader across Asia and Australia in its ability to reverse the slides of businesses across the spectrum.

It might sound like a King Midas story, but it certainly doesn’t go to Bee’s head. When it is put to him that he has achieved a lot for a fresh-faced 39-year-old, he appears extremely modest and equally grounded.

"I know I am lucky, and I have a good life. But I still want to live normally. I still take my children to do the grocery shopping at the weekend, and they do chores around the house. We don't have live-in maids or anything like that. It is important that we are a normal family."

The various industries in which he has knowledge have made him countless contacts across the board. Bee once was quoted as saying: "While I don't have billions of baht in cash lying around, I know where to get it," and he says he wants to make a point of clearing up what he meant by that.

"That was my way of saying that I have contacts who are willing to back me and go into partnership with me. I have had lots of people offer their support and show interest in being a part of ventures in lots of areas. Over time I have come to know a lot of people in a lot of industries, so if I want to invest in something it is not difficult for me to find interested parties to join me."

One of his more recent moves has seen him develop the Global Legends Series, which sees football stars who have collected the game's greatest honours congregate for a four-match series in different cities across the world. Legacy plans include the GLS Academy, which is backed by the Ministry of Education and is set to reach around 200 million children across the world in the next five years or so.

Global Legends Series | The concept was founded by Fabio Cannavaro and is promoted by Bee

But Bee's interest in football – and particularly Italian football – demanded that he do more.

"It was Baroness Rothschild who suggested to me that an investment in Milan might be available," he explains. "Her family is not really interested in football and, like me, they will not get involved in something they are not passionate about.

"I started watching Italian football in the early 1990s, when Milan were huge. Serie A was the league to watch for me because there are lots of Italians in Australia, so I was encouraged to watch it by the kids around me. It has always stuck with me, and I've never really gone for any other league.

"That's why in investment terms it was Milan or nothing for me. I wouldn't have made a move on any other club, and have turned down the chance to get involved elsewhere. But I have to be passionately involved, and also I believe in only shooting for the very top. Milan are one of the biggest names in football and could be absolutely huge, the potential is endless."

A man who has made his name arresting the slide of failing companies and raising them to incredible heights is about to buy a significant stake in a football club meeting that definition.

If Bee can deliver even half the impact on the Rossoneri that he has with businesses across so many other industries, one of the game's most celebrated clubs might be about to enter a period like nothing it has experienced before.

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