Could Bordeaux wine producers save the city’s frail top tier football club?

by May 27, 2021News0 comments

Dear reader and wine lover,

What would you do if your favourite sports club were on the verge of collapse? And what if you could use your professional contacts to save it for good?

Billionaire François Pinault, France’s third-richest man – also founder of luxury group Kering and owner of the one and only Château Latour –, surely doesn’t want his cherished FC Girondins de Bordeaux to go broke nor relegated to the second tier of French football.

A passionate appeal to Bordeaux wine producers

Just last month, the 84-year-old tycoon launched a passionate, open appeal to fellow Bordeaux châteaux owners to support the club – put under the protection of Bordeaux’s Commercial Court after its American, global investment firm King Street Capital decided to withdraw funding for the club amid the covid-19 pandemic economic fallout.

In the open letter published by daily Sud Ouest, the billionaire said he, “like all lovers of French football, (was) moved by the idea of seeing FC Girondins de Bordeaux in danger of disappearing”:

‘Associated for 30 years in Bordeaux life through Château Latour, I think that the existence of this famous club Les Girondins is important for Bordeaux, its influence, its balance with which all wine owners can surely identify’, Pinault wrote. ‘What is the economic force which, in this region, can try to save Les Girondins and develop them? The world of wine and, in particular, the owners of grands crus.’

A traditional French club in peril

Pinault’s appeal follows the decision of the U.S. hedge fund, earlier this year, to stop investing in the team – less than three years after having gained control of the Ligue 1 (French top division) side in 2018.

Having been the first club in the major European football leagues to have administrators called in during the pandemic, Bordeaux has been seriously impacted by both the economic fallout and the bankruptcy of media rights agency Mediapro, which was due to pay €780m/season to broadcast Ligue 1 matches.

Now, the frail club will require at least 100 million euros of new investments to withstand the financial collapse. Any potential buyers will allegedly have to pledge this amount to cover the club’s debts and projected losses for the next two years.

Legendary French midfielder Zinedine Zidane playing for Bordeaux, 1996

All this confusion, as one could imagine, has been battering the club performance: the club – six-time French champions and once home to players like Zinedine Zidane, Bernard Lacombe, Christophe Dugarry and Pauleta – suffered a series of defeats on the field ever since, and now currently sits 16th in the league… with only two matches to go.

Depending on how it goes, Bordeaux could end up relegated to Ligue 2, the second tier of French football. That means even further crisis and less income.

Despite his fortune, estimated at $50.9 billion, Pinault can’t make a bid for the club, as he already owns fellow Ligue 1 competitor Stade Rennais FC (Rennes) – which Bordeaux, even in a terrible form, managed to beat 1-0 in early May. However, Pinault said he is willing to participate in any rescue led by others.

EMBRACING EFFORTS FOR SURVIVAL

Pinault’s plea was quite welcomed by leading Bordeaux wine figures. Château Pape-Clément owner Bernard Magrez, a former sponsor of FC Bordeaux, said Pinault’s idea was ‘excellent’ and that he was ready ‘to contribute’.

Meanwhile, Philippe Castéja, president of the Conseils des Grands Crus Classés in 1855, told Sud Ouest that Pinault’s letter was ‘a positive message that I hope will awaken the world of wine and grands crus in Bordeaux’.

‘I hope this idea will gain ground from now on’, Castéja added. ‘We must take up the torch.’

We, as good old Bordeaux lovers, surely don’t want to see the mood spoiled for our good friends there.

Good luck to Bordeaux (the club and the city!) and a toast to our beloved winemaking region – with our delicious releases from Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Coutet!

Until next time.
Breno

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