Lance to buy Tour organisers Amaury Sport Organisation…?

Posted: September 22, 2008 in cycling, Road, tour de france
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong

A rumour, started in Australia over the weekend, has it that the real reason behind Lance Armstrong’s return to the world of cycling next year is so that he can buy Tour organisers Amaury Sport Organisation.

SMH give their reasons behind this as (if it was true):

Were Armstrong to own ASO, it would give him a huge European-based sporting arm through which he could promote the Lance Armstrong Foundation and expand exposure for his own personal sponsors.

It is worth noting that ASO, whose revenue in 2006 was €150 million ($263m), does not just own the Tour.

It also owns nine other races – including the Tour Qatar and Tour du Faso in Africa – the Dakar car rally, Paris marathon and half-marathon, the French Golf Open and the R.I.D.E international equestrian event in Normandy. The return of Armstrong to racing after a four-year hiatus – let alone if he won – would also reinforce the Armstrong branding that he virtually had on the Tour during his reign as champion, and would cement it as its future figurehead.

And if such a deal pains the French, should not the blame be pointed at ASO’s owners for giving up a national icon?

If it sounds absurd, there have been a number significant events that hint at such an outcome.

American ownership of ASO would strengthen the bridge between it and the US-based Anschutz Entertainment Group which organises, among other events, the Tour of California.

Furthermore, the event already supports two cancer charities and has been listed by Armstrong as one of the races he will compete in next year. A relationship already exists between ASO and AEG, too.

Last year, they settled on a marketing partnership deal.

The prospect of an Armstrong-UCI coalition involving UCI vice-president Verbruggen also carries weight. The Dutchman appears available. He stood down as an International Olympic Committee member on August 24.

The UCI also announced during the Olympics that it had met with the Amaury Group to settle a long-standing dispute with the tour organisers over the official sanctioning of races.

But did they discuss more?

Nothing was said by the UCI then about a possible ASO takeover. Nor has it been since. But, interestingly, no tour executives were present at those talks, or at the UCI press conference in Beijing.

Recent whispers also hint that several ASO executives may soon be leaving. Such a scenario would leave Australia, South Africa and other countries in the southern hemisphere as the next frontier for the Armstrong-UCI ticket.

The gain for the UCI is its association with Armstrong, while for Armstrong, it would allow him to take his fight against cancer worldwide.

Which is, after all, the reason he says he is getting back on the bike.

Now this all makes huge sense to me. Plus, even if it turns out to be wrong, it’s still not a bad idea for Lance to consider.

However, as expected the UCI have already countered this claim. Contacted by Cycling Weekly, UCI president Pat McQuaid dismissed the whole idea of an Armstrong-UCI-Verbruggen takeover of the Tour as something that: “never was and never will be a possibility. In fact, it’s so far removed from the truth that if it were closer to the date I would consider it an April Fool’s Day joke. It’s just not true”.

Ah well, it still makes for interesting reading and a ‘potential’ future prospect that sounds rather exciting.

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