Tuesday, June 2, 2020

For the Toulouse Football Club, it’s soon America

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Before becoming the king of airline catering and the president of the Toulouse Football Club, Olivier Sadran (49) began his career as a self-taught entrepreneur by organizing bungee jumping courses in the Pyrenees. A jump into the void is kind of what awaits the TFC, which is about to be sold to RedBird Capital Partners, an American investment fund. The solidity of the elastic remains to be seen, especially for a club promised to Ligue 2, the second level of the professional football elite.

Thursday, the TFC formalized the entry into exclusive negotiations between this fund (which has invested more than $ 3 billion in twenty companies) and Olivier Sadran. It was no longer a secret, its sole owner and president since 2001 had been looking for a buyer for several months. The choice of RedBird may surprise those who know the Toulouse file. Indeed, Oliver Sadran has long shown his preference for a regional buyer or, failing that, national.

But you have to believe that when a French club is for sale, it especially whets the appetite of American investors. Bordeaux, Marseille and Le Havre have already passed under the American flag. Toulouse will soon extend the list of clubs bought by foreign investors in recent years, in which we count, just for Ligue 1, PSG (by Qatar since 2011), Monaco (by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, still in 2011), or Nice (by Jim Ratcliffe, biggest British fortune, in 2019).

With its slogan " In the heart of the South West "And its very family-run, the TFC still embodied an old model like French professional football, one where a local entrepreneur provides for the needs of the club in his region or his city. Despite the international development of his company Newrest, Olivier Sadran has always managed his business from Toulouse. His city, for which he took over a TFC on the brink of bankruptcy in the summer of 2001.

A president who has become absent

Relegated sportingly and administratively, the club returned to National (3e division), and the young 30-year-old boss discovers that the former owners didn't even leave a game of balloons. Everything has to be rebuilt, and the story is beautiful at the beginning. Toulouse regains Ligue 1 in two years thanks to a bunch of local kids (" the Pitchouns ”), Tasted the Champions League in 2007 (at least in its preliminary round), and its president was then cited as an example for its management.

But since then, the flame has gradually gone out, and the Purple alternate the odorless seasons and miraculous postures for a decade. Busy with his business, Sadran no longer trains with his players as he sometimes used to and delegates the day-to-day management to his trusted man, the very effaced Jean-François Soucasse. " TFC must be 3% of its activity, but 97% of its shit, advance his friend Jean-Claude Plessis, former president of Sochaux. Why does it continue in football? "

Supporters also wonder. " He himself recognizes that football is no longer really his priority. He no longer has the same energy as when he joined the club "Said Yves Dussert, president of the Association for the Defense of the Interests of Toulouse Supporters (Adist). Sadran is a true captain of industry, he has shown it in the companies he manages. I wonder why he seems to be content with the mediocrity of the club. "

Read also "Our only horizon is Ligue 2": in Toulouse, the depression of the supporters

The calamitous 2019-2020 season of his team (good last with 13 points, three small victories and as many coaches consumed) ended up recording this divorce. In January, the president even offered subscribers a refund for their subscription if they no longer wanted to come to the Stadium. The message is clear: if you are not happy, stay at home.

Despite criticism and disaffection, the businessman nevertheless intends to keep a foothold in the club, in which he should remain a minority shareholder at 15%. "Because I am a native of Toulouse and as such I feel responsible for the TFC, which can always count on my passion and my support", he indicates before braiding the praises of the future buyer. " I am convinced that RedBird Capital Partners has the necessary skills and resources to allow the TFC to return to the elite of French football ", He continues, seeming to accept the demotion in L2, which still contests Amiens, 19th.

Damien Comolli, French touch of the project?

In Toulouse, the new boss should be called Gerry Cardinale, the founder of RedBird. Partner at Goldman Sachs for twenty years, this businessman knows the sport environment well, through projects with the baseball franchise of the New York Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys (American football). His fund is interested in soccer and to France for a while now. In 2018, Cardinale began discussions with the president of the Red Star, Patrice Haddad. A first immediate touch with the Saint-Ouen club.

The formal signing of the buyout will take place by the end of June. In the meantime, Cardinale should say more about his plan for the TFC, the purchase price of which is not yet known. A first name came back with insistence to direct sports policy: that of Damien Comolli. Passed by Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Saint-Etienne, or Fenerbahçe lately, it has an important network, notably with agents.

If the native of Béziers were to become the new strong man of Toulouse, it would remain to know the means available. Because before thinking about making a profit on its investment (perhaps through the promotion and sale of players), RedBirds first has a club to bring back into the elite. The new owners – accustomed to the model of the American closed leagues – risk very quickly discovering this adage dear to French presidents: We know when we go down to Ligue 1, but never when we go back up. "

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