Steve Gibson has no intention of selling Middlesbrough after rejecting a £50million offer for a stake in the club.
Press Association Sport understands Gibson, who steered Boro back from the brink of financial ruin in 1986, is not interested ether in a full sale or a partnership, but is open to potential new commercial avenues.
Sources on Teesside have confirmed that the owner and consultant Peter Kenyon met Chinese businessman Chien Lee, whose OGC Nice Investment Group Ltd owns French club Nice, and associates in October.
Subsequently, an offer amounting to around £50million was made for a 50 per cent stake in the club, although it was swiftly rejected.
However, the two parties could yet work together as Gibson attempts to increase Boro's global profile.
The 59-year-old local businessman joined the club's board at the age of just 26 and led it through liquidation in 1986 before reluctantly taking on the role of chairman eight years later.
Gibson built the Riverside Stadium and appointed Bryan Robson as manager, sparking the influx of big names such as Juninho, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Emerson, and later presided over the 2004 Carling Cup success, the club's first major trophy, and the run to the UEFA Cup final two seasons later.
More recently, he has backed current head coach Aitor Karanka in the transfer market to enable him to end Boro's seven-year Premier League exile.
Lee has previously held talks with Hull, but failed to strike a deal with the Allam family, and is also understood to have made overtures to Middlesbrough's north-east neighbours Newcastle and Sunderland.
News of the discussions with Gibson emerged as rumours circulated that Karanka had parted company with the club on Monday evening after criticising sections of the Riverside crowd in the wake of Saturday's 3-1 Premier League defeat by West Ham.
However, the speculation was ill-founded and the Spaniard - who famously was banished from the training ground for 48 hours after a bust-up with some of his players last season before Gibson brokered a truce - remains in post.
That said, it is understood his comments have not gone down well, albeit there is an acceptance that he may have misinterpreted exhortations from the stands to "attack, attack, attack, attack, attack" as encouragement to play the kind of long-ball football he appears to detest.
Karanka, who accused fans of having "a short memory", said after the game: "I am really upset with the last 10 minutes because we didn't play in the way that we have to play, in the way that we know to play, and it was because the atmosphere was awful today because they (the crowd) demanded a lot of the players.
"We don't know how to play in that way - playing that way, we didn't create one chance. The team was broken on the pitch and it's a thing that I don't like at all, so we need to improve.
"They need to understand where we were last season, two seasons ago. I think these players deserve more respect."