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Gerry Ryan: Manuela Fundación wasn’t the deal that I thought it was

Gerry Ryan and Shayne Bannan.
Gerry Ryan and Shayne Bannan. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Mitchelton-Scott owner Gerry Ryan has said that he blocked Manuela Fundación’s proposed takeover of the team as it “wasn’t the deal [he] thought it was.”

The Spanish not-for-profit entity was unveiled as Mitchelton-Scott’s new title sponsor in June, but barely a week later, Ryan announced that the deal was off. Team manager Shayne Bannan and financial director Alvaro Crespi subsequently left Mitchelton-Scott at the end of June and they have been replaced by Brent Copeland and Darach McQuaid.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Ryan said that he was prepared to cede naming rights to Francisco Huertas’ Manuela Fundación but not ownership of the team and its WorldTour licence.

“Put it this way... it was different,” Ryan said. “I wasn’t totally across the deal and when I started to look at the deal ... it wasn’t the deal that I thought it was. I decided, no, they could have sponsorship but not ownership.”

Ryan has owned Mitchelton-Scott since its inception as GreenEdge in 2012. Staff and riders on the men’s and women’s WorldTour teams accepted substantial salary cuts in April due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the organisation had been actively seeking a major commercial sponsor after years of relying primarily on Ryan’s financial support.

The Australian said that he had never spoken with Francisco Huertas or his negotiator, the 2000 Giro d’Italia winner Stefano Garzelli.

“Bannan did. I had no correspondence apart from a couple of emails with the gentleman,” Ryan said. “The problem was everything was done over Zoom. What was happening is he had a team of advisers and I think, in translation, a lot of things got misconstrued about what they were looking for and what we were actually looking for. I came into it late in the conversation. The deal had basically been agreed to but hadn’t got my blessing. I came into it in the home straight and I scratched the horse.”

Bannan had been general manager of GreenEdge from the beginning, having left his longstanding role with Cycling Australia to establish the team ahead of the 2012 season. Ryan told the Sydney Morning Herald that Bannan opted to leave the team at the end of June.

“He decided to leave because it had fallen over,” Ryan said. “Shayne was very upfront and said, ‘I’ve brought the team to this stage and I think it probably needs fresh eyes and fresh direction.’”

Ryan’s comments to the Sydney Morning Herald about the collapse of the Manuela Fundaciòn echoed what he told the Detour Podcast earlier this month, when he also hailed the arrival of Copeland, saying “he can fit into the culture that we’ve already established, and he’s already hit the ground running after a week.”

Ryan will continue to own the Mitchelton-Scott team in 2021 and he told the Sydney Morning Herald that the team had “Australian DNA,” adding: “You’ll probably see a couple of more Aussies come into the team next year. We try and put in the best team that we can recruit and afford.”