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In sporting difficulty, AS Saint-Étienne is also in the middle of a sales process. The Cambodian prince, Norodom Ravichak, nephew of the current king, has made an offer to buy the historic French club. This businessman wants to make him a symbol of the unwavering link between France and Cambodia.
Stuck in the depths of the Ligue 1 standings (19e after six days of the championship), Saint-Étienne awaits Prince Charming. The Greens may have found it in the person of Norodom Ravichak, prince of Cambodia and half-brother of the current king. This entrepreneur, known for his humanitarian actions, wants to make the acquisition of « Sainté » a symbol of cooperation between his country and France.
« It is true that I officially applied to take over AS Saint-Étienne », confirmed in an interview with RFI the prince, aged 47, who said he wanted to invest « in the long term ». « Thanks to my business networks, I was able to meet personalities from the world of football and, one thing leading to another, learned about the ASSE sales project a few months ago. My goal today is to take care of Saint-Étienne. «
ASSE, the only club ten times champion of France, has been experiencing serious financial difficulties for several months against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and reduction in revenue from TV rights. In two years, the budget has fallen from 110 million euros to 70 million. Only one recruit arrived in the summer. The club officially went on sale in April 2021.
According to Le Parisien, Norodom Ravichak would have made an offer of 100 million euros to the consulting firm KPMG for the takeover of the Greens. Discussions could, according to the daily, start quickly.
A confident Francophile
Son of Norodom Chakrapong, half-brother of current King Norodom Sihamoni, Norodom Ravichak is one of the grandsons of King Sihanouk, who died in 2012 and formerly close to General de Gaulle. A monarchy with assumed Francophilia: since the restoration of the monarchy to the throne of Cambodia in the early 1990s after the Cold War, the royal family now lives between Paris and Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Norodom Ravichak also heads a financial consulting firm domiciled in the 13th arrondissement of Paris.
Born on January 1, 1974 in Canton (now Guangzhou, China), during the Cambodian conflict, and educated in France, Ravichak developed a vast business network in Europe, the Middle East and especially in China, where he established ‘close relationships with many state-owned enterprises and investment funds. A little quickly presented as crown prince in the media, a function that does not exist in the Cambodian constitutional monarchy – the sovereign being chosen by a Council of the Throne. Norodom Ravichak actually carries the honorary title of Ambassador without assignment.
In France, he is best known for his humanitarian actions, especially in France. At the Cannes Film Festival 2018, he was thus seen at a fundraiser for research against cardiovascular diseases organized by « The Heart Fund ». In 2009, he also received the Humanitarian Grand Prix of France.
Football fan, Prince Norodom Ravichak participated in the Plug-Foot Game in Rouen, in December 2014. A charity event bringing together many professional players, sponsored at the time by the former player from Paris, but also from Saint-Étienne , Mathieu Bodmer.
« I am passionate about football and I grew up being enthusiastic about the French championship and of course the France team. This is how I have always had a special affection for ASSE which occupies a place except among the very big clubs of the Hexagon « , explains Norodom Ravichak on RFI.
Competition on the file
For the moment, Saint-Étienne is in the hands of two co-shareholders: Bernard Caïazzo and Roland Romeyer. In disagreement on the future of the club, the two men entrusted the care to KPMG, an Anglo-Dutch audit and consulting firm, to analyze the candidacies. Both men hope to achieve a sale by the end of the calendar year.
Two applications have already passed the first filter imposed by the firm: a bank guarantee of at least 100 million euros. The first is the Terrapin investment fund which would be managed by the former president of Monaco Jérôme de Bontin (from 2008 to 2009), who made an offer for the club in 2018. The second is a local takeover offer carried by entrepreneur Olivier Markarian and backed by a powerful Luxembourg finance company.
According to L’Équipe, the Cambodian prince is favored by Bernard Caïazzo, while Roland Romeyer would give his preference to the Franco-Luxembourg project.
On the side of Norodom Ravichak, we « hope to move forward as quickly as possible » in the acquisition process, affirming « not to come to carry out a financial transaction » while « bringing in solid partners that he will present when the time comes ».
« If we come to an understanding, I will provide sufficient means to achieve these ambitions and allow Saint-Étienne to regain its splendor », he added, wishing « to develop academies in Cambodia and in Asia ».
« My ambition for Saint-Étienne is national and international », argues the prince.