Football: half of Ligue 1 clubs under foreign flag

With the scheduled takeover of Olympique Lyonnais by American John Textor, Ligue 1 has once again proven that it is attractive to foreign investors. From now on, the tricolor owners represent only half of the contingent. Workforce review.

Foreign owners

Clermont. The Swiss Ahmet Schaefer is at the head of the Auvergne club, which he bought in 2019. Coming from a family of Zurich bankers – his grandfather, Alfred Schaefer, was notably president of UBS -, he manages a holding company called Core Sports Capital. In addition to Clermont Foot, the businessman owns the Lustenau club (Austria).

Toulouse. The promoted Toulouse player changed hands in 2020, after its takeover by the American fund RedBird Capital. The latter now owns 85% of the capital, while Olivier Sadran, the former owner and president of the club, holds the remaining 15%. Last June, RedBird Capital struck a blow by offering AC Milan for 1.2 billion euros.

Paris. The capital club has been owned since 2011 by Qatar Sports Investment (QSI), a subsidiary of the sovereign fund Qatar Investment Authority. Initially majority shareholder with 70%, QSI bought the following year the 30% still in the hands of Colony Capital, the former owner. In ten years, nearly 1.4 billion euros have been invested in transfers alone.

Nice. In 2019, the Riviera club passed into the hands of the British petrochemical company Ineos, led by billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, who spent some 100 million euros on this occasion. In addition to OGC Nice, his group owns FC Lausanne (in Switzerland), the Ineos Grenadier cycling team and a third of the shares of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team.

Marseilles. Despite constant rumors of sale, Olympique de Marseille is still owned by American businessman Frank McCourt. Having made a fortune in real estate in the United States, the leader was previously the owner of the Dodgers baseball franchise in Los Angeles.

Lille. Since Michel Seydoux handed over in 2017, the Lille club has been going through a period of turbulence. Taken over by businessman Gérard Lopez, it was then briefly held by the Elliott fund, one of its creditors. The LOSC is now in the bosom of the Luxembourg fund Merlyn Partners.

Lyons. Unless the situation turns around, Olympique Lyonnais will indeed fly the American flag at the start of the school year. In the meantime, the businessman John Textor, via his holding company Eagle Football, should buy back the majority of the club’s shares held by the reference shareholders, in this case Holnest (the holding company of Jean-Michel Aulas), Pathé and IDG Capital. John Textor already owns the clubs of Botafogo (Brazil) and Molenbeek (Belgium). He also owns 40% of the capital of Crystal Palace (England).

Auxerre. A historic figure in the elite, AJ Auxerre is back in Ligue 1, with the Chinese James Zhou in charge. The billionaire, who made his fortune in the packaging industry, bought the club in 2016 by acquiring 60% of the shares, then inflated his stake thanks to a capital increase. The remainder is held by the AJA football association.

Monaco. In 2011, the Principality of Monaco agreed for the first time to cede control of the club, in this case to Russian billionaire Dmitri Rybolovlev. The businessman, who made his fortune in potash, owns 66.67% of the shares of AS Monaco, the rest still being held by the Monegasque executive.

Troyes. Since 2020, Estac has been majority-owned by City Football Group (CFG), controlled by a private equity fund close to the Abu Dhabi royal family. Also owner of Manchester City, CFG has gradually built up a network of around ten clubs in the United States (New York City FC), Australia (Melbourne City FC), Italy (Palermo FC), Spain (Girona FC) or India (Mumbai City FC).

French owners

Lens. Arrived at the head of the club in 2016, Joseph Oughourlian has been its sole shareholder since 2017. The businessman founded the investment fund Amber Capital, which was among the main shareholders of Lagardère. In addition to RC Lens, the manager is the majority shareholder of Calcio Padoue (Italy), Millonarios de Bogota (Colombia), and a minority shareholder of Real Zaragoza (Spain).

Brest. Stade Brestois has been run since 2016 by Denis Le Saint, owner of the club, along with his brother Gérard. 99% shareholders, they also manage the eponymous family business, specializing in the distribution of fruit and vegetables, seafood, meat and frozen foods.

Nantes. Since 2007, FC Nantes has been owned by Franco-Polish businessman Waldemar Kita, who owns 96% of the club’s shares. The latter notably co-founded Corneal, a specialist in ophthalmology and subsequently sold, then the Vivacy laboratories, which manufacture injectable products against wrinkles and skin imperfections.

Lorient. Loic Féry has been at the helm of the Breton club since 2009, and owns the majority of shares. The businessman also runs Chenavari Investment Managers, an asset management company specializing in credit and financing markets.

Angers. SCO Angers is in the hands of Saïd Chabanne, a Franco-Algerian businessman and founder of the Cosnelle group, which specializes in the charcuterie trade. After becoming the club’s majority shareholder in 2011, he then bought out the minority shares to hold 93% of the capital.

Ajaccio. The Corsican club, just promoted to Ligue 1, is owned by the Ajaccio Imperial Corse Investissement holding company, made up of several shareholders with equal influence. Its president is Alain Orsoni.

Montpelier. Bought by Louis Nicollin more than forty years ago, the Montpellier Hérault Sport Club (MHSC) remained in the family fold after his death in 2017. It is chaired by his son Laurent Nicollin, also co-director of the eponymous group specializing in waste management with his brother Olivier.

Strasbourg. Returning in a few years from the amateur world after an administrative relegation, the Racing Club de Strasbourg is owned by several « historic » shareholders as well as by Marc Keller, ex-player of the club and now president.

reindeer. Stade Rennes is entirely controlled by Artémis, the holding company of the Pinault family. Apart from the Breton club, it notably controls the luxury group Kering, and has stakes in several dozen other companies.

Reims. The Stade de Reims has several shareholders, including two main ones: Jean-Pierre Caillot, who is also the president of the club and the boss of a transport company, and Didier Perrin, who runs an advertising agency. The Thiénot and Taittinger champagne houses also own shares.

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