Aqua Blue Sport have informed Cyclingnews that they have started legal proceedings against a member of the team due to what they see as "slander and breach of confidentiality". The members of the now-defunct team were informed of the news by CEO Tom Timmerman, who, in an email titled 'Overview of the Facts', also announced he would be stepping down with immediate effect.
Before he announced his resignation, Timmerman stated that all salaries relating to the team would be covered by the UCI bank guarantee. The team announced on August 27 that they would fold and that all contracts with riders and staff would be annulled. However, the UCI bank guarantee – a figure of €400,000 – was set aside to cover the salaries for the remainder of the season.
Aqua Blue had been in talks with Sniper Cycling amid a possible merger for 2019 but those negotiations broke down in the summer and Aqua Blue owner Rick Delaney decided to end the team soon after, despite a race schedule that included September’s Tour of Britain.
Timmerman’s email, dated November 12, was sent to the 2018 roster of riders and staff and provided separately to Cyclingnews.
"A beautiful story, a beautiful concept, a beautiful journey – but little appreciation…" Timmerman begins.
"Again, to my major disappointment, some people find it necessary to solve the current situation in the media. It goes without saying, that this is certainly not helping, and most of all drawing a one-sided story, disregarding all the efforts we have made for a clean follow up and decent execution of the agreements."
Timmerman then proceeds with a six-point list in which he lays out the team’s position. He states that August salaries were paid in full and without delays and that the UCI were instructed by the team’s management to draw on the bank guarantee at the end of August and that ‘process of salary payments’ was started on September 5.
Timmerman points the finger at the UCI for delaying the process. Files were sent to the governing body on September 21, but eight days later it responded by asking that specific forms be completed.
Cyclingnews has been told that riders were then asked to submit paperwork to Timmerman, who would then pass the documents to the UCI. Point 2.e of Timmerman’s email states: "Forms of riders and staff have come in late and incorrect, which has slowed down the process."
Timmerman also informs the staff and riders that the management chased the UCI more than 10 times and that there would be sufficient funds to pay the remaining wages for the rest of the season. Cyclingnews has contacted the UCI for comment but has not received a response.
Using the figure of the €400,000 bank guarantee, Timmerman states that the salaries for riders and staff in September total €153,767, and that riders’ salaries between October and December stretch to €253,987. It’s unclear whether non-riding staff will be paid from October onward but Timmerman adds that race organiser ASO still need to pay the team appearance fees in the region of €10,000, with which the salaries for the riders would be covered in total for the rest of the season.
Details of salary payments to Aqua Blue Sport riders as distributed in Timmerman's email
"Let me also stress, that bar from a few people, no one has offered to help, no one has contacted us other than for receiving money…" Timmerman continues after concluding his six-point list.
"Let me also stress that Rick and Lisa [Delaney] have personally been paying all salaries, and the only thing that comes back is negativism, gratefulness has been farfetched, although it has been a great project for 2 years."
During the weekend, Andy Fenn, who rode for the team in 2017 and this year until his contract was annulled, penned an open letter to the management due to the lateness and uncertainty relating to salaries.
It’s unclear if Fenn is the rider Timmerman is referring to when he says: "I have to say, it has been an experience for me, not one I am going to forget lightly. People need to realize that solving issues is NOT done through media, but by discussing, looking at facts and finding solutions. Given there is a breach of contract by one of your colleagues for slander and breach of confidentiality, legal proceedings are being pursued against this individual."
Fenn has not yet responded to an enquiry from Cyclingnews.
Timmerman ends his email by announcing that he is stepping down from the team.
"I truly hope I have clarified the facts and the current situation! In this type of environment, I can and will no longer work!
"I will therefore with immediate effect stop working for Aqua Blue Sport.
"Therefore, consider this my last email to you all, I wish you the best of luck in sorting things out together, read UCI, Riders and Staff!
"No need to further contact me, as I will not be able to be of any assistance!
"Have a tremendous day!"