Finding a buyer at AS Saint-Etienne is a search that promises to be complicated according to Mickael Terrien.
Bertrand Caïazzo and Roland Romeyer, the two shareholders of AS Saint-Etienne who faces PSG this Sunday, April 18 for the 33rd day of Ligue 1 (1:00 p.m.), announced on Tuesday April 13 their intention to hand over the club. For Mickael Terrien, sports economist and lecturer at the University of Lille, finding a buyer in the current context should not be an easy task.
Why did the leaders make this decision?
Mickael Terrien : “The two Saint-Etienne leaders stand out in the world of club presidents. Unlike the majority of other shareholders in France, they are not seated on major financial blows. Bernard Caïazzo and Roland Romeyer are not able to cope with years of great economic difficulties like those we are currently experiencing. They will be forced to find financial liquidity to face the health crisis and especially that of television rights with the Mediapro fiasco. Both would like to remain in control and find someone else even more in the minority than them, who would write the checks without taking part in the decisions. Everyone would like to have a minority shareholder but no one can find one. So the solution is to sell completely. “
The club was very close to changing hands in 2018. But the context today is very different …
MT: “Both executives have been looking to sell for years. And when the opportunity to sell to an investment fund presented itself, they preferred to wait for a bigger offer, which never came. (In May 2018, the club entered into exclusive negotiations with Peak 6, an American investment fund acquired in the capital of several clubs such as Bournemouth, AS Roma or Dundalk FC in recent years, editor’s note).
They haven’t found buyers before, when it was much easier to sell – around 2016 when France hosted the Euro – and a lot of clubs were sold to others. (Bordeaux, Lille, Marseille, editor’s note). With the current context linked to Covid-19, and to TV rights, they will have difficulty finding someone to take over the club. I even think it’s unlikely that they will find one. Not to mention that the sports results are not good. “
What are the arguments that could appeal to potential investors?
MT: “Let’s put the health context and TV rights aside. ASSE is one of the rare French clubs, if not the only one, to have been profitable for many years. It has managed to earn money for a long time. and even to pay dividends to its shareholders. This is an exceptional case in the football landscape in France. In our system, what is common is that at the end of the year clubs lose money. money. So the shareholders pay every year so that the entity continues to exist, but in Saint-Etienne, it was the opposite. The club allowed them to enrich themselves on a regular basis for years. was possible because Saint-Etienne has a captive audience, which goes to the stadium even when there are no results. “
ASSE therefore remains an important club in the French football landscape. Should this play out in the negotiations?
MT : “Yes, AS Saint-Etienne is a brand linked in particular to its exploits in the 1970s in the Champions Cup. A brand which is certainly less and less known to current consumers because there is less supporters who have lived the epic Saint-Etienne. But this remains an important image at the national level: a club which makes a final of the Champions Cup, there are not fifty in France. is what is most valuable today for Saint-Etienne. “
We are talking about France but in their open letter, the two leaders indicate that “the attractiveness of ASSE goes beyond borders” …
MT: “One of the main factors that determine the value of a club is the catchment area of the territory, that is to say its local potential. With all due respect to Roger Rocher (the emblematic president of the club from 1961 to 1982, editor’s note), who said that in terms of football, Lyon was the suburb of St Etienne – it was the case in the 1970s but today the situation is reversed. Saint-Etienne is small compared to Lyon, which itself is small compared to Paris, Munich or Turin. The club’s development potential is reduced. In terms of attractiveness, we will never interest a country with Saint-Etienne. There is talk of Saudi Arabia as a future buyer but ASSE does not interest the State of Saudi Arabia, for reasons of soft power. On the other hand, it is possible that an individual Saudi Arabian wants to take control of the club, as was the case in March in Châteauroux. “