Billionaire Chen's Shanda Group raises stake in Lending Club

A woman looks at her phone as she passes by a Lending Club banner on the facade of the the New York Stock Exchange December 11, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

(Reuters) - Chinese billionaire Chen Tianqiao has raised his stake in online lending platform Lending Club Corp LC.N following the recent ouster of founder and Chief Executive Renaud Laplanche.

Singapore-based private investment firm Shanda Group, which is led by Chen, reported a 15.13 percent in Lending Club as of June 16, up from 11.7 percent reported on May 11, two days after Laplanche was forced out.

Shares of Lending Club, the world’s largest peer-to-peer lender, were up about 3.1 percent at $5.02 in midday trading on Monday. The company’s shares are down sharply since May.

Chen made a name for himself as an online gaming magnate after launching Shanda Interactive with just $60,000 in the late 1990s. The business lured millions of Chinese to packed Internet cafes across the country to play fantasy games, with the media dubbing him China’s answer to Bill Gates as booming sales put him at the top of China’s rich list in 2005.

Chen said in May that he viewed Lending Club’s crumbling stock as a buying opportunity. He has been actively investing in the company since at least late March.

Laplanche resigned on May 9 after an internal probe found that the company had knowingly sold an investor - later identified by sources as Jefferies Group LUK.N - $22 million of loans it did not want.

Laplanche had also not disclosed to Lending Club that he held an ownership stake in a fund in which the company was considering an investment.

The former CEO has been speaking to private equity firms and banks about financing a potential buyout of the online lender, sources familiar with the matter said earlier this month.

Lending Club, whose shares have been falling since its stock exchange listing in 2014, has a market value of about $1.9 billion.

Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in New York; editing by Shounak Dasgupta, G Crosse