Gymshark founder & Aston Villa fan Ben Francis responds to reports he's on the verge of Reading FC takeover

Ben Francis, the billionaire founder of Gymshark has responded to the rumours that he's close to taking over Reading
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Gymshark owner Ben Francis has responded to claims he's set to take over Reading FC with the League One side in the midst of a financial crisis.

The controversial owner of Reading Football Club, Dai Yongge, was told last week to either sell the financially-ridden club or prove that he plans to fund it properly.

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The League One outfit has been hit with a series of points penalties and fines for failing to pay staff and taxes with the Royals facing an uncertain future. The businessman, whose wealth comes from investment holding company Renhe Commercial Holdings Company Limited and a Chinese shopping centre empire, has been sent a strong message by the EFL and hit with a £50,000 fine for failing to deposit money into a designated account.

That penalty follows a £20,000 fine last month for a similar breach. Reading were relegated from the Championship last season, although would have stayed up if not for the points penalty. The club now sits 21st in League One, three points adrift of safety. Staff at the football club have been made redundant in recent months with deals for first-team players being agreed upon without the prior approval of manager Ruben Selles or head of football operations Mark Bowen.

Reading supporters are desperate for new owners, and there had been rumours circulating that the Birmingham-born founder of Gymshark, Ben Francis, was considering investing in the club. The Reading Chronicle tweeted on Sunday night (January 21) that the 31-year-old billionaire, who grew up in Bromsgrove and attended Aston University, was "on the verge of becoming the sole Reading FC owner".

The tweet went on to say that his name had been mentioned for a while and that the deal was "almost done."

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But the Gymshark owner, who is a huge Aston Villa fan, quickly responded to the tweet, to deny any involvement with the Berkshire club. In response to the claim. he said: "I’m sorry but this isn’t true. I’m a Villa fan through and through and wouldn’t have an involvement with any other club. Plus I’m far too busy at Gymshark! All the best I hope you can get everything sorted."

Gymshark owner Ben FrancisGymshark owner Ben Francis
Gymshark owner Ben Francis

What is Ben Francis' net worth?

Ben was awarded an MBE in the 2023 New Year Honours for services to the business sector and an honorary degree from Aston University in 2022.

The Gymshark CEO now lives in the Cotswolds with his wife Robin, and their twin sons were born on 24 December 2022. Francis, a lifelong Aston Villa fan and season ticket holder at Villa Park, was also named on Forbes’ World’s Billionaire list who are 30 and under in 2022. He now has a total net worth of $1.2 billion (£922 million) - becoming the UK’s youngest billionaire.

The 31-year-old has also been appointed as a member of Downing Street’s business advisory board. 

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