Chinese-American businessman Chien Lee on February 1, 2019 in Nice. - Lionel Urman / Sipa

  • Despite the denials of the TFC, President Olivier Sadran would be in negotiations to resell the club, promised to relegation to Ligue 2.
  • The Violets could pass under the Sino-American flag, under the leadership of the businessman Chien Lee, former leader of Nice between 2016 and 2019.
  • Present in other football clubs and in other economic activities, potential future investors seek above all to enhance their assets, before a medium-term resale.

It is often sunny, the sea and the mountains are around an hour and a half away. But it is not for these reasons that investors led by the Chinese-American Chien Lee would have set their sights on Toulouse and its football club. The TFC officially denied on Wednesday evening the information revealed by RMC Sport, but the current last of Ligue 1 would be well in negotiations with this group which presided over the destinies of OGC Nice between 2016 and 2019.

Obviously tired of a succession of complicated seasons, Olivier Sadran could very soon let go of the reins he has held firmly for nineteen years. Already present in the shareholding of Burnsley (English L2) and FC Thun (Swiss L1), perhaps waiting for Ostend (Belgian L1), Chien Lee, founder and president of NewsCity Capital, is also a “Protée” businessman , among others, in hotels and real estate.

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"It is a group of investors who comes for the purpose of speculation, judges sports economist Pierre Rondeau. We are in the same scenario as in Bordeaux and, to a lesser extent, than in Lille. It's not at all like Qatar [with PSG] or the United Arab Emirates [Manchester City]. The concern of the Chinese-Americans is not "soft power", with political aims in the background. It's just business.

Towards a “discount” sale

"The TFC, promised to relegation to Ligue 2, will most certainly be sold" at a discount ", continues the columnist for RMC Sport, professor at the Sports Management School in Paris. The objective will undoubtedly be to quickly go up in L1, within one or two years, then to perpetuate the club over two seasons. Finding the elite, whose TV rights will explode this summer from 748.5 million to 1.153 billion euros per year until 2024, is a sine qua non condition before a resale that could be juicy, if the plan goes without a hitch.

In 2016, Chien Lee and his Chinese and American co-shareholders (Alex Zheng, Paul Conway, Elliott Hayes) bought 80% of the Nice club for 22 million euros. They had sold it three years later for 100 million to the British Jim Ratcliffe, boss of Ineos. According to L'Equipe , investors are also ready to pay 20 million euros to Olivier Sadran to buy the TFC.

"It is a financially healthy club," says a player agent familiar with Ligue 1. There is great potential in the fourth city of France. If I had the money, I would invest. Pierre Rondeau nods.

“In 2018, the club's assets were valued at 30 million euros. The TFC is already structured, with experience from Ligue 1, a functioning training center and a large demographic potential, even if rugby competes with football. The return of investment in the short term can be done by trading [sale of players] and in the more or less long term by the valuation of the assets. "

In Nice, the shareholders had started with fanfare with a nice third place after a high-end recruitment (Balotelli, Belhanda…). But the epilogue of adventure had been complicated. The majority of the Riviera supporters had gripped the shareholders, denouncing a lack of sporting ambition and their financial management, embodied by a loan of 22 million euros contracted from a Luxembourg fund…

Gauthier Ganaye and Chien Lee in Nice, February 1, 2019. - Lionel Urman / Sipa

In Toulouse, it is the current management that crystallizes the anger of many fans, whether ultras or not. The organization chart would necessarily be turned upside down if negotiations with Chien Lee were successful. Ephemeral president of Nice for seven months, until August 2019, the thirty-something Gauthier Ganaye could occupy the same function at the TFC.

Patrick Vieira fan of Ganaye

"I would not be surprised to find Gauthier at the head of a club, reacted this Thursday Patrick Vieira, the coach of OGC Nice. He is someone with whom I shared a few months, with whom I enjoyed working. He is ambitious and loves football. I wish him to find a good project so that he can continue to grow. The Toulouse supporters want, more modestly, for their club to get up.


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  • Toulouse
  • Sport
  • Olivier Sadran
  • Soccer
  • TFC
  • OGC Nice
  • League 1