Russian businessman Oleg Tinkov has reportedly bought Bjarne Riis’ team, giving control of the Saxo Bank team for 2014 and beyond.
According to Sunday’s Gazzetta dello Sport, Tinkov has paid Riis close to seven million Euro to take control of the team from Riis.
Tinkov and Riis have had a difficult relationship this year, making news of a buy out very surprising. Tinkov announced the end of his sponsorship of the Saxo Bank team in the summer after failing to reach an agreement with Riis for 2014 and after publicly criticising team leader Alberto Contador about his high salary and poor performance at the Tour de France.
In an exclusive interview with Cyclingnews, Oleg Tinkov confirmed that he was looking to buy a WorldTour but was ready to sit out a season and build his own team for 2015 after talks with the Cannondale team ended. It seems negotiations with Riis accelerated after the interview, following the successful stock market floatation of Tinkov’s credit card company Tinkoff Credit System.
Gazzetta suggest that the recent revelations by Michael Rasmussen about Riis and his knowledge of doping, may also have played a factor in convincing Riis it was time to sell.
Tinkov was not available for immediate comment but dropped a hint about his activities on Twitter on Saturday, writing: “The mood is good! I will not say who and where. Secret trip”
Saxo Bank confirmed it would boost its sponsorship in 2014 to cover the loss of Tinkoff Credit Systems as a second sponsor and Alberto Contador said he would respect his contract and stay with Riis' team. Now both the Danish bank and the Spaniard could have a new and more difficult team owner to deal with if the news is confirmed.