Kenny Huang, the New York-based Chinese businessman who wanted to buy Liverpool – purportedly with the backing of the Chinese government, a claim never proved – has effectively disappeared from view since withdrawing without explanation in August.
Until yesterday, that is, when he re-emerged in London, at a sports conference, only to find himself being served with legal papers accusing him of fraud, deceit and defamation, charges that if proven could cost him around $10m (£6.2m).
In farcical scenes, he ended up running through the corridors of a five-star hotel to get away from a chasing pack of reporters and camera crews. To make his escape, he enlisted the help of a bouncer at the NFL-sponsored event, and was ushered into a lift with his bemused business partner Marc Ganis, who later told The Independent: "We had no idea what was going on."
Huang was then kept in an upstairs room before leaving via a secret exit, apparently underground, because he was next spotted emerging a couple of blocks away. He was driven off in a vehicle with tinted windows.
Huang had been served with the legal papers – by a private detective, on duty as a process server for the day – as he arrived at 9.55am. Word soon spread, and when he declined to answer any questions about his sports interests from the media during the panel session, he was pursued for answers afterwards.
The plaintiff in the legal action is a Florida resident, Deidre Halley-Wright, a former business associate of Huang. Huang is one of nine co-defendants in an action relating to a car import business. Huang has 20 days to respond to the summons, and could face a trial or a judgment against him in his absence if things get that far. The Independent has seen public papers relating to the case. Huang is accused of fraud and deceit (and conspiracy to commit both), defamation (and conspiracy to defame), and tortious interference (and conspiracy to tortiously interfere) with the plaintiff's business relationship with the car business in question, a firm called AutoChina.
Huang has been described, grandly, as a Chinese sports tycoon, although his QSL company was started only last year and Huang's major sports assets are a struggling Chinese basketball team and commercial rights to a baseball league, a sporting irrelevance in China.
He has also acted as a middle-man, introducing a beer brand and a pot noodle brand to two US sports teams for sponsorship deals. He yesterday claimed a baseball team he backs had become world champions this summer; in fact, the group of Chinese primary school children in question won a small invitation event in Japan.
Halley-Wright had tried to serve the relevant papers on Huang in America, but a judge said in August Huang had been deliberately evading service. Hence the service in London, when Huang wasn't expecting it.