Riis Sells Team Saxo and Riis Cycling to Russian Businessman Tinkoff
Riis-owned company Riis Cycling A/S, which runs WorldTour Team Saxo-Tinkoff, has been bought by Tinkoff. Tinkoff's bank ended its sponsorship of Team Saxo-Tinkoff at the conclusion of the 2013 season citing conflicts between Tinkoff and team captain Alberto Contador who delivered substandard performances in 2013.
Earlier this afternoon it was announced at a press event in London, Great Britain that Russian businessman Oleg Tinkoff has bought Riis Cycling A/S from 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis of Denmark. Riis will be the team's manager for the coming three years with a possible extension.
Following the purchase, Team Saxo-Tinkoff will be renamed Team Tinkoff-Saxo for the next three years if Saxo Investment Bank decides to stay on as second title sponsor following the 2014 season.
Commenting on the purchase Tinkoff said "With this agreement I believe Tinkoff Sport have secured the best possible foundation and setup to reach our goal of becoming the greatest cycling team in the world over the course of the coming three years. This is going to be a big investment for Tinkoff Sport, but I have no doubt it will be great value for money."
Riis said "After careful consideration, I have decided to sell Riis Cycling as I believe this is the right thing to do for both the team and for me on a personal level. With this deal the long-term stability of the team is secured, and the team now has the funding and foundation to continue to be a major player on the WorldTour and to further raise our ambitions."
"Second, I can focus on running the team's sporting department, giving much more attention to the actual racing itself and the training of our riders. I believe that today we have created a fantastic setup that enables us in the most optimal way to fulfill our ambitions in the future," Riis explained.
Some analysts believe Riis' decision to sell Riis Cycling to Oleg Tinkoff has been made at the perfect time. Team Saxo-Tinkoff has long shown signs of being past its prime and Anti-Doping Denmark's sharp eagle eye is currently in the process of investigating Riis after riders such as Michael Rasmussen and Tyler Hamilton have stated Riis knew about their doping while they were riding for his team.
The unconfirmed selling price of US$8.2 million (€6 million), however, appears attractive with industry professionals having estimated the value of Riis Cycling to be about 80 percent higher.
Tinkoff Sport's CEO Stefano Feltrin has previously worked as attorney for Hamilton who in his book "The Secret Race" described how Riis encouraged the use of doping while Hamilton was riding for Riis' team.
The selling of Riis Cycling to Tinkoff means there will no longer be a Denmark-based team in the WorldTour when the ownership transfer process has been completed.
Tinkoff's return to Riis Cycling came as a major surprise to many cycling fans who have watched Tinkoff suddenly pull away from Team Saxo-Tinkoff in October following a season where Tinkoff had posted negative comments about the team's riders on Twitter on many occasions.
Notably, Riis Cycling A/S was not renamed Tinkoff Cycling A/S, but Tinkoff Sport A/S, signaling the Russian entrepreneur may be using the Denmark-based company to expand within the European Union in other sports beyond cycling.