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by Shane Stokes
October 15, 2015
Photography by By Cor Vos
Commenting after Saxo Bank indicated Thursday that it was ending its backing of the Tinkoff-Saxo team, its CEO has ruled out moving its sponsorship to another squad in 2016.
The bank has had an eight year association with the team’s former owner, Bjarne Riis. Amid recent talk that Riis wanted to return to cycling and had the help of former Saxo Bank co-CEO Lars Seier Christensen, the possibility existed that Saxo Bank could move to another project.
This will not be the case, CEO and co-founder Kim Fournais told Ritzau.
“At least not next year,” he said. “One should never say never. We have had a great collaboration with Bjarne Riis and we certainly will not have problems to work with him again. But right now, we want to prioritize differently.
“It may well be that we come back, but after eight years, we have geared up the sport, we feel that the timing is right to take a little blow.”
Fournais’ comments are echoed in a joint statement issued by himself and Christensen.
“Sponsoring a cycling team has played a key part in building brand awareness at a time of rapid build-out of our international business which todays includes 26 offices around the world,” they said.
“Going forward Saxo Bank will continue to be a strong supporter of high performance sports and will be looking further into opportunities that enable us to sponsor strong individuals across various sports and regional interest.
“As always any decision regarding potential sponsorships will depend on business potential, results and value of branding.”
While Christensen will reportedly collaborate with Riis as he bids to either buy the Tinkoff-Saxo team structure back from current owner Oleg Tinkov or, potentially, to purchase another squad, his links to Saxo Bank are less than before.
Any partnership would therefore be external to the bank’s activities.
In September he said that he would step down as co-CEO and also resign from the board of management. He will remain as a shareholder.
Saxo Bank first became involved with Riis’ team back in 2008, co-sponsoring the then-CSC squad.
Ritzau asked Fournais if the watering down of the Danish element by Tinkov – including Riis’ firing as manager – was a factor in the company’s departure.
“There are many components in the decision. It is a jumble of causes that have done it,” he answered.
He added that the bank will change tactic in terms of its marketing.
“Cycling sport may not provide an optimal opportunity to tell why Saxo Bank is unique. We will use more bandwidth to tell who we are and what we can do for customers.
“Therefore, we will use our resources differently. It costs a lot of money to be a part of the sport, and you will not see us move them into another sport.”
There is no indication as yet as to how Riis might fund the purchase of a team. Tinkov told CyclingTips at the weekend that while he was open to the sale of the team at the right price, that he didn’t believe Riis had the necessary funds.