Ligue 1: how OL is preparing to change its economic dimension with the takeover of Textor

Between now and the first hours of October, and barring any last-minute twists, a new chapter should open at OL with the concrete arrival of the future OL boss, John Textor, who will take on, with partners strong, the capital relay of Jean-Michel Aulas. The latter will see his mandate as CEO of the group last at least for 3 years in a mode of governance to be sustained, over the relationships that will be woven in this management of a new kind for the seven-time champion of France.

The (decisive) week that outlines the OL of tomorrow with a US accent

The plan is unfolding so far without major hitches in the initial schedule, enacted in June: by the end of the week, a succession of boards of directors should ratify the process begun in June with the entry ” in exclusive negotiations with Eagle Football Holdings, LLC, a company owned by American businessman John Textor” as indicated in a press release from OL on June 20, 2022 following an article by RMC Sport: OL soon to be under the American flag

Thus, after this stage, the ‘closing’ as we say in the business world, will be over and OL will see its strong man, Jean-Michel Aulas, until then reference shareholder, become a minority shareholder in the capital of a club. which he has grown without interruption since 1987. These boards of directors will settle the final details and then define the governance of the ‘board 2022’ which will see the appearance of relatives of John Textor and his associates, alongside a handful of historical actors, remaining with Jean-Michel Aulas. Everything will be really official, however, once the financial press releases have been written and published. They are really the ones who will mark the end of the operations. In the meantime, the actors in this final straight line remain silent and no one wishes to communicate.

In total, for his funding round, John Textor had to mobilize 468 million euros: 317 million to compensate the historic shareholders (Pathé and IDG), 86 million for a capital increase plus 65 million for the takeover bid (public offer purchase) to be launched at the end of the year to snatch up all the shares on the stock market.

A capital increase that can be used during the winter transfer window

“Once he has bought the house, he will be able to do the work”, image thus close to the file. “Do the work”, that is to say proceed with the capital increase of 86 million euros which in part will be used for a potential future winter transfer window, if necessary. In this expenditure item, all transactions in the summer of 2022 were carried out with current shareholders. During the general meeting of July 29, a necessary step in the process, the detail of the breakdown of this sum was indicated: 29 million will be injected into the financing of the Arena – inaugurated in the fall of 2023 – which will be used for the ‘Asvel for its European matches but also at concerts and meetings; 17 million will be used for the development and investment of infrastructure while the remaining 40 million will go to strengthening the professional men’s and women’s teams.

If the details still to be settled are during these decisive hours – “It is always like this in such complex cases and it is not synonymous with impasses”, decodes a regular in such operations -, John Textor will thus have , at the end of this weekend, 66.56% of the club and in July 2023, 88.55% of the shares with the total redemption of Osranes bonds (bonds redeemable in new or existing shares). As he had hinted at the height of summer, the “financial” boss, by the end of the year (end of November?) will then begin withdrawing from the OL scholarship, which was the only French sports structure listed since February 2007. It will then launch the takeover bid on the more than 17 million shares remaining on the market.

Once all the shares of the ‘small holders’ have been bought back, the American businessman will only be accompanied by JMA’s family holding company, ‘Holnest’, which will hold just under a tenth of the club (8.5%) . From reference shareholder (28%), the President of Lyon will become a minority shareholder, while retaining leadership as Chairman and CEO of OL Groupe in a governance pact signed with the US businessman.

The boards of directors of the next few hours will thus be the last of the (cordial) agreement ‘Aulas – Pathé – IDG’, started with the first named, in June 1999 when Jerôme Seydoux, boss of the cinematographic group Pathé, brought some 100 million francs in the capital of the club to take it to a new level: in the process, OL notably recruited Sonny Anderson in July 1999 then triggered a virtuous circle of trophies at the start of the 21st century: 7 French championship titles (2002- 2008), including a double (2008 with the Coupe de France) then a League Cup in 2001. IDG, a Chinese group arrived in the summer of 2016 with some 100 million euros, corresponding to 20% of the club .

These two co-shareholders, who had become somewhat ‘dormant’ over time, had decided last March, to everyone’s surprise, to sell their respective shares, nearly 40% of the club (19.36% for Pathé and 19.85 % for IDG), leaving Jean Michel Aulas in front of a blank page with his 28% stake, the latter absolutely having to find a new economic ally, while keeping control at the operational level. After the tough spring negotiations, often drawn out at the end of the night, due to jet lag, Jean Michel Aulas and his close advisers had chosen John Textor.

Ares Management replaces Bill Foley

Since that day, everything has followed the programmed path, strewn with logical setbacks for such a gigantic file financially speaking after the passage in general assembly at the end of July, then another before the CSE of OL in August. It took more time to refine the round table, on the ‘buyer’ side: Bill Foley, a close friend of John Textor planned during the initial negotiations, not providing the necessary guarantees, in particular from the 13 banks which hold the debt of the OL has thus been replaced by Ares Management, a US XXL financier, with 334 billion in assets, as recently detailed by L’Equipe. Lyon ‘economic’ observers saw a sign that everything was getting back to normal with the presence of John Textor in the VIP basket on September 18 during the match between his future club and PSG. If he had come alone to ensure his first press conference on June 21, it was with a group of financiers and advisers who visited the facilities that he made this remarkable visit two weeks before the end of the negotiations.

For many ‘historic’ personalities in the wake of Jean-Michel Aulas who took over the club in Ligue 2 in 1987, it’s a real change of era and way of proceeding because everything will now sound different with players in backstage and US sports habits and customs. Thus, the boards of directors will be held, logically largely in English at the time of this American takeover, even if the figure who will embody and lead the club will not change and will always be called Jean-Michel Aulas. The latter will also have to learn to work, certainly with his own men in the operational field for many years, but with American financiers, who will have the power of money.

This cohabitation had known very few hiccups throughout the successful marriage since 1999 with Jérôme Seydoux: it is above all synonymous in the contemporary history of OL with the golden period with the sequence of men’s titles (7 between 2002 and 2008) and female (15 national titles and 8 Champions League). It will now be necessary to “copy and paste”, and even “export” this winning formula with players that the Lyonnais will have to get to know and with whom they will also have to learn to compose. For the nostalgic, a page is turned and a new era begins, almost seven years after the departure from the historic Gerland stadium. It’s a leap into the unknown for them too… For the optimists, it’s a new chapter that opens at OL, the most ‘American’ of French clubs, since the owner of its stadium, backed by a leisure park and with an upcoming – fall 2023 – multi-function arena.

To each sensitivity, its appreciation of the period which should open at the very beginning of next month when the ink of the final signed papers will have dried and the official press releases will be published. Confirming then for good, a semester of intense negotiations, from April to October, for an XXL operation of nearly half a billion euros.

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