The following is a translation of an article by French outlets Mediapart and Mediacités relating to Chinese firm Fosun’s attempts in 2015 to purchase Ligue 1 side Bordeaux and hire Zinedine Zidane as manager.
Football News takes no responsibility for the authenticity of the content.
Zinedine Zidane today took his first training session of his 2nd stint as the manager of Real Madrid this morning, but his coaching career nearly took him to Bordeaux, before Real Madrid could hire him the first time.
Chinese conglomerate Fosun spent $15bn in foreign investments between 2010 & 2017. Acquisitions in France include Club Med and Lanvin. Football in France was however also on their horizon.
In November 2014, one of the company’s representatives, Jeff Shi, was approached by Raine Group bank about purchasing Premier League side Everton – he refused, but contacted the bank again in May 2015:
“Last year, you recommended several investment opportunities into football clubs, and I told you it was too soon. But this year, Fosun are ready to make offers… We want to buy or play an active role in an English Premier League team, a Spanish Liga team, an Italian Serie A team, a German Bundesliga team, a French Ligue 1 team or a Portuguese Liga team.”
It was Bordeaux, owned by M6, that Fosun cast their eyes on first. On 24th July 2015, Fosun’s Director of Finance, Frank Lee, wrote an email to Director General Andrew Xu with a details of the project:
“Meetings this week with the CEO and the Director of Finance of the current owner of the club indicate that it would be most realistic to see the deal closing in September or October, because we have to take into account administrative delays… and the diplomatic elements of the project (meeting with the Mayor of Bordeaux, with the Minister of Sport, etc.).”
The email also revealed that Zinedine Zidane, then manager of Real Madrid’s 2nd team, was very much involved:
“We discussed yesterday with Zidane regarding the timeline of the operation. He is happy to have more time to work on the new Bordeaux team, on transfers and on the sporting project. He is very motivated by this fantastic challenge and to make Bordeaux a great club and a profitable business.”
Zidane famously wore the Bordeaux shirt between 1992 and 1996 – nobody doubted that ZZ’s return would have seduced fans.
Zidane was due to be in charge of the entire Bordeaux project, and Fosun were even willing to give the new Los Blancos manager a shareholding in the club:
“We have already begun negotiations with the CEO of M6. No surprise, they are difficult because we do not want to pay the value estimated by their Finance Director, €60m. We believe that we have a price worth between €25m & €30m (including €20m paying off debts + €10m to purchase 66% of shareholding, with the other 33% to be purchase by the representatives of the new team, including Zidane),” indicated Frank Lee in his email.
In September 2015, negotiations took a step forward. Frank Lee was preparing the signature of a confidentiality agreement on the part of Fosun to enable the Chinese actor to have access to confidential accounts of the Bordeaux club.
In parallel, Fosun was set to work with a very big fish. In November 2015, they purchased 15% of the world’s most famous football agency, Gestifute of Jorge Mendes, for €18m.
Rachid Bakhtaoui, a businessman who is close to Real Madrid, was involved in the Bordeaux x Fosun project. In December 2015, he met with Andrew Xu in Shanghai. On the 18th December, he made reassurances to Fosun that despite the increased pressure on Rafa Benitez as Real Madrid manager, Zidane’s involvement in the project was not endangered: “The president of Real Madrid declared last night on Spanish radio that Benitez would remain as manager, excluding Zidane as a replacement in the short term.”
Bakhtaoui also put to Xu a succinct business plan: provide a €45m budget for transfers in 2016 and see sales balance out acquisitions from 2019 onwards. Fosun projected, thanks to the arrival of Zidane, an explosive increase in revenues from 2016 onwards: 20% increase in ticket sales, 30% increase in sponsorship and partnerships, a 50% increase in merchandise sales.
With a loss of €41m predicted for the first 2 years of the project, by 2018 projections indicated that Bordeaux would be in the green financially and that they would finish on the Ligue 1 podium.
But on 4th January 2016, everything fell to pieces. Rafael Benitez was sacked by Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane accepted to replace him the following to day, bringing the end to the Fosun x Bordeaux project. Rachid Bakhtaoui wrote to Frank Lee & Andrew Xu:
“As you will discover this morning, Zidane has accepted to become the manager of Real Madrid. I spoke with him yesterday on the phone and I understand his decision because we were still too far away from a real offer and the financial guarantees required to build a competitive team. We have missed a unique opportunity to build a prestigious club with a world football icon at a very low price. In terms of Bordeaux, we could always suggest another manager because we think that the project remains interesting. Let us know if you want to continue the acquisition process.”
Andrew Xu shot back:
“We understand that this is a big step for Zidane. Our best wishes to him. We have missed a very attractive opportunity… Now that Zidane is excluded from the deal, this will undoubtedly no longer figure as a priority for us.”
In the end, Fosun went after another project, with their partner Jorge Mendes: in July 2016, the Chinese giants bought English 2nd division side Wolverhampton Wanderers for around €53m, a club that has since climbed into the Premier League.
For Bordeaux, the club was still sold, but to American fund GACP in November 2018 and for €100m.