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It’s fair to say the team at the Manuela Fundación isn’t thrilled with how things have gone with the Mitchelton-Scott deal. That’s not terribly surprising – from the perspective of the Spanish foundation, the deal was done, they’d taken ownership of the team, and preparations were well underway to having riders in new kit when racing resumes. But then Mitchelton-Scott owner and long-time benefactor Gerry Ryan told Ride Media a deal hadn’t actually been finalised, before going on to scupper the deal entirely.
The man negotiating the deal between the foundation and GreenEdge was former pro racer — and 2000 Giro d’Italia winner — Stefano Garzelli. The Italian has been outspoken in the media in recent days, detailing his frustrations with the process.
He told Italian site Cicloweb that a contract was signed on June 5, “valid in all respects, between the Huertas group [ed. the Manuela Fundación is run by Francisco Huertas] and the New Global Cycling Service, Shayne Bannan’s company based in Switzerland, which manages the team.”
According to Garzelli, the Manuela Fundación’s sponsorship was set to begin from the first races after the COVID-19 break and that “from 1 January 2021, the company’s ownership would pass directly to Francisco Huertas and the license will become Spanish.” Garzelli told Cicloweb that the contract ensured Bannan would remain as general manager through 2025, and that financial manager Alvaro Crespi, sports director Matt White, and performance director Kevin Tabotta would remain in their respective roles until that time as well.
Following Ryan’s claims that he still owned the team, Manuela Fundación was rattled.
“I assure you that even the current management of the team, from Bannan to Crespi, was stunned to say the least in front of this news,” Garzelli said. “We had already scheduled a series of technical meetings, already to talk about 2021 as well as the current season. Booked hotels, set dates, and then a jersey designed and presented …”
From Garzelli’s perspective it was a done deal, and Ryan’s comments to Ride Media on Wednesday were a surprise. Nonetheless, Garzelli insists that he and the foundation acted professionally throughout.
“We did everything in a workmanlike manner … with clarity and transparency,” he said. “I personally carried out the negotiation; I know what I’m talking about. And I am not an idiot — I have not closed my collaboration with RAI for a blunder [ed. Garzelli is a long-time commentator for Italian broadcaster RAI].”
Prior to Ryan’s announcement that the deal was off, Garzelli maintained there was a signed and valid contract between Manuela Fundación and the team, and he was operating on the assumption that the partnership was still going ahead.
“The team is 100% Bannan; Bannan decides to sell to Huertas,” he said. “The agreement is valid and we will continue on the path traced.”
Ryan has since said that only a “head of terms” — also known as a letter of intent — was signed by the foundation and Mitchelton-Scott, rather than a full and binding contact. CyclingTips understands that the deal was struck by Bannan without Ryan’s involvement. Ryan told Ride Media earlier in the week that he hadn’t met Huertas.
According to Ryan the team will continue racing as Mitchelton-Scott until the end of the year — with wages returned to what they were before COVID-19 — and that the team will keep the same name in 2021.
So what happens from here? Well, if the foundation still believes the signed contract is valid, it’s not hard to imagine lawyers getting involved. After that, who knows. One thing’s clear: this story isn’t over yet.