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Are multi-propriety investors in soccer becoming the norm?
Are multi-propriety investors in soccer becoming the norm?
Federico Farcomeni | 01/15/14 | 6:54 PM EST 0 Comments
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Belgian investor Roland Duchatelet has just finalized the deal to become the majority shareholder of a sixth club in Europe. Is that too much?

From June 2011 and in less than three years, the fifteenth richest Belgian has managed to buy 100% shares of Standard Liege and Saint-Trond in his country, Ujpest in Hungary, Carl Zeiss Jena in Germany, Charlton Athletic in England and Alcorcon in Spain. The last three were acquired in the space of less than a month, between December and last Friday – just when the winter transfer market comes around.

Fans tend to think that having to deal with more than one club could be strenuous. The feeling is that you might channel your energies in too many directions, and eventually end up losing the plot. In fact, in the economic hyper-world, they tend to delegate a lot. And Duchatelet is no exception. He might be in touch every day with Charlton Athletic manager Chris Powell, but his son Roderick for instance guarantees a family-like daily approach with his players in Hungary. And who could deputize better than your offspring after all?

With DC United owner Erick Thohir becoming the majority shareholder at Internazionale in Italy not long ago, other examples of this multi-propriety are evident in the actual soccer landscape. Last week, one of the crazy rumors in that jungle that is the transfer market was “Lazio reject Salernitana approach for Tounkara.” So one would assume that president Claudio Lotito, who owns both teams, would end up questioning his alter ego on the other end of the table. 

Jokes aside, just think about the Pozzo family who owns Udinese in the Peninsula, but also Granada in Spain and Watford in England. Were the Hornets to be promoted to the Premier League they would cash in something like $240 million thanks to TV revenues et al (and the same is true for Duchatelet’s Charlton of course). Other clubs like AS Roma are happy enough to create their talent-scouting network, forming allegiances with clubs at different latitudes (Serbia, Croatia, Spain, Brazil and maybe England in the near future) rather than buying actual shares. In this way, they risk less and at the same time acquire priority over talents when it comes to the transfer market. Just like Triple-A teams in baseball.

Then there are larger-than-life characters like Napoli president and movie-mogul Aurelio DeLaurentiis who is obsessed with the idea of globalizing his club and will soon buy other clubs in England, the Far East and the USA (he is also based in LA after all).

Media in Europe have been debating the issue, whether it’s morally viable to keep shifting players between countries without paying anything, reproducing a kind of Football Manager simulation game. In soccer, where shark-esque agents tend to get it all, owners and investors increasingly want to shield themselves from their power. After another Belgian, Marc Bosman, changed the rules in 1995, player-power has become the norm in the last twenty-odd years. But with this apparently new scheme, things could revert in the owners’ favor. As long as results on the pitch don’t evade them for too long.




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