Details of the failed purchase in 2020 of the Australian Mitchelton-Scott WorldTour squad by Spanish NGO Manuela Fundación have been leaked by its management to sports daily Marca, revealing an alleged buy-out price of €7 million.
In June 2020, Manuela Fundación, based in the southern Spanish city of Granada, signed a hugely unexpected deal with Mitchelton-Scott, whose women's and men's teams are now re-badged as Team BikeExchange, to take over the squad mid-season.
However, what appeared to be a done deal fell through when it emerged that Gerry Ryan, who owned Mitchelton-Scott's WorldTour licence, was not fully on board with the take-over. In barely a space of a week, the takeover by Manuela Fundación, which had seen team vehicles already stripped of decals and prepared for their new logos, collapsed.
According to the document published by Marca, the owner of Manuela Fundacion, businessman Francisco Huertas, was due to make an initial down payment of €3,180,000 in July 2020. On top of that he would have had to pay €600,000 for the WorldTour licence in 2021 before completing the payment.
The contract shows that Manuela Fundación would have become complete owners of the team, with everything down to mopeds used for motor-pacing and valued at €500 apiece, being passed over to the Spanish.
“We did a very good operation. People talked about 30 or 40 million euros for the buy-out but it was just seven,” Huertas told Marca radio station this week. “It was a bargain, a real chance.”
Huertas pointed out that Mitchelton-Scott’s riders had accepted a major pay cut earlier that year in order to try and salvage the team, which was reportedly in economic trouble.
“They announced the deal, not us, because we didn’t want to put our foot in it,” Huertas told Marca. “When they looked at what they’d signed, they pulled out. But now it’s time to explain what happened.”
Back in 2020, Gerry Ryan subsequently revised and binned the deal, which was masterminded by team manager Shayne Bannan and financial director Alvaro Crespi, saying “it wasn’t the deal [he] thought it was.”
“What was happening is he [Bannan] had a team of advisers,” Ryan told the Sydney Morning Herald a year last July “and I think, in translation, a lot of things got misconstrued about what they were looking for and what we were actually looking for.”
Bannan and Crespi subsequently left Mitchelton-Scott at the end of June 2020, and were replaced by Brent Copeland and Darach McQuaid.
Huertas also claimed during his interview with Radio Marca that at one point later in 2020, he began negotiations with Patrick Lefevere for a possible buy-out of Deceuninck-QuickStep. However, that deal also fell through.
Manuela Fundación continue to sponsor cycling in Andalucia, with teams at multiple junior levels up to U23, despite their failed attempt to buy out Mitchelton-Scott. In 2022 their own home-grown team will be making its debut in the Continental category.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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