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Why billionaire Aliko Dangote decided not to buy Valenciennes football club

By Alexis Billebault

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Posted on June 22, 2023 08:54

Dangote football Africa’s richest man, Nigerian entrepreneur Aliko Dangote, 7 October 2016 in Paris. ©STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP
Africa’s richest man, Nigerian entrepreneur Aliko Dangote, 7 October 2016 in Paris. ©STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP

Dangote has finally abandoned the project after protracted negotiations, making way for Danish company Sport Republic.

Valenciennes, the French club that confirmed its survival in Ligue 2 despite losing the 38th and final match day at Saint-Étienne, will not be flying the Nigerian flag. As the club’s management confirmed on 16 June, it is currently in exclusive negotiations with Sport Republic, a Danish sports investment company based in London and a majority shareholder in English club FC Southampton (80%) as well as the Turkish club Göztepe Izmir (70%).

Whopping deficit

Sport Republic was one of the first companies to express an interest in buying the French club. And after several months of negotiations and regular visits to Hainaut stadium by Dangote’s emissaries, the latter finally abandoned the deal.

Keeping Valenciennes Football Club (VAFC) in Ligue 2 had been one of Dangote’s non-negotiable conditions. However, according to our sources, the Nigerian billionaire was put off by the club’s financial situation. The club has a deficit of $7.15m, a high figure for a Ligue 2 club whose budget for the 2022/23 season was $10.45m, or 13th (out of 20) in the division.

“The losses are undoubtedly a little higher. The club has lost a number of court cases in recent years, and it has ongoing [legal] proceedings that could cost it further,” explains a source close to VAFC. For example, the club is involved in a conciliation procedure with Pierre Wantiez, its former deputy general manager, and Nicolas Penneteau, a former goalkeeper, who are demanding $396,000 and $2.1m, respectively, while a former club photographer is demanding $5.06m in unpaid royalties.

$26.4m for 88% club control

Valenciennes president Eddy Zdziech’s asking price was almost $21m, a sum which didn’t include the amount the club would need to cover its debts.

“It was too much. As far as we know, he [Dangote] was prepared to pay up to $16.5m, perhaps a little more, all included,” said our source.

The Cement King has not abandoned his plans to acquire at least one club in Europe, in a Top-Five country (Germany, England, Spain, France, Italy), but he has clearly decided to take his time.

In the meantime, VAFC will go before the Direction nationale de contrôle et de gestion (DNCG), the organisation that oversees the accounts of professional football clubs, on 27 June, having been granted an extension. Sport Republic could invest a total of nearly $26.4m to take over 88% control of the club.

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