Middlesbrough owner Steve Gibson has rejected a £50million offer to buy 50% of the club from a Chinese-American consortium.
Chinese businessman Chien Lee, who currently owns French club Nice, and American Paul Conway had both visited the Riverside on two occasions this season before making a bid for a 50% stake of the North East club.
The offer was rejected outright by Middlesbrough-born Gibson, as the self-made millionaire is said to have no interest in selling the club he saved from liquidation back in 1986.
However, the 59-year-old did sanction a due diligence check on Lee and his associates, with the hope a relationship with the group could improve Middlesbrough’s global reach.
Gibson and his consultant Peter Kenyon had met Lee at Rockliffe Hall on October 18 but was unaware of his intentions to buy the club.
The Chinese-American group have also reportedly made contact with Boro rivals Newcastle and Sunderland. Although talks came to nothing, they met with Keith Bishop, trusted lieutenant of Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and Sunderland owner Ellis Short, who distanced himself from their approaches despite his wish to sell the club.
The consortium are keen to expand their footballing portfolio after impressing during the tenure at Nice, who finished 4th in Ligue 1.
Lee and Conway, alongside Alex Zheng, currently own 8o% of the French club, and were in talks with the Allam family over the possibility of a takeover of Hull City, which fell through in November last year.
They remain highly interested in owning an English club, with the aim to purchase a controlling stake in either a Premier League or Championship club.