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The Saxo Bank team has moved quickly to deny that team owner Bjarne Riis has sold out to Oleg Tinkov but Cyclingnews understands the Russian businessman is still in talks with Riis and several other teams, as he looks to take control of a major team.
Speaking via his Italian legal advisor Stefan Feltrin, Tinkov dismissed a report in Sunday’s Gazzetta dello Sport that he had paid seven million Euros to take over Riis Cycling –the management company that runs the Saxo Bank team.
However the recent successful floatation of his Tinkoff Credit Systems credit card company on the London stock market seems to be burning a hole in his pocket. As a former racer and cycling aficionado, Tinkov is keen to invest in professional cycling but to Cyclingnews in a recent exclusive interview that he wants direct control of his investment by securing ownership of a team.
A deal with Riis seems possible, perhaps with Riis staying on as part owner and team manager, but no agreement has been finalised.
“It’s wrong to say that we’ve bought Riis’ team. Nothing has been signed and were still talking to a number of teams about possible projects,” Feltrin told Cyclingnews.
“Following Oleg’s interview with Cyclingnews we received proposals from several current teams, both WorldTour and Professional Continental teams, and other ideas for teams from people in Italy, France, Britain and the USA. We’re still talking to several of them and considering their proposals but nothing has been signed.”
“We’re still talking to Riis, we have been talking for two months despite the past differences, but it’s just one project we’re considering.”
Tinkov took to Twitter to dismiss the Gazzetta dello Sport story but he did not deny he is in negotiations with Riis or other teams.
“It is indeed nice to be rich and famous :-)!!! They writes articles on you around the world, and usually ridiculous stuff, but entertains )” he wrote on his Twitter feed.