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Tour de France Rejects Equity Share in UCI’s Cycling Company

By Alex Duff
January 26, 2012 10:34 AM EST

Cycling’s ruling body Union Cycliste Internationale is trying to find investors to promote the sport and raise revenue in new markets after the organizers of the Tour de France rejected the offer.

The Aigle, Switzerland-based group, which sets regulations and oversees anti-doping controls, has approached wealthy individuals about taking a stake in its newly-formed unit Global Cycling Promotion S.A. after Paris-based Amaury Sport Organisation declined to participate, UCI President Pat McQuaid said in an interview yesterday.

While emulating other sports federations with commercial units such as soccer’s FIFA, the UCI’s move into race promotion is novel for cycling, whose premier races like the Tour and Giro d’Italia have been privately-owned for decades. The UCI set up the inaugural Tour of Beijing in October and plans races in Russia and South America, McQuaid said.

“We have spoken to people of means” from inside and outside cycling about investing, McQuaid said, declining to identify them. ASO, which helped authorities organize the Beijing race route, “said for the moment they’d like to stay in the role of service provider,” he added.

Cycling’s season is based around the biggest three stages races, the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana. About 87 percent of the races UCI regulates are in Europe. Tour organizer ASO, owned by the Amaury family and Lagardere SCA, is already expanding its business outside Europe with an amateur cycling event in Argentina, and by providing services at the Tour of California.

ASO spokesman Thomas Cariou didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Fewer Resources

The UCI, which is made up of cycling national governing bodies, has fewer resources than other sports federations to organize and promote events, McQuaid said. The cycling regulator had net income of 114,000 Swiss Francs ($124,000) after sales of 25.6 million Swiss francs in 2010, almost half of which came from the world championship, according to accounts on its website. Zurich-based FIFA got sales of $3.7 billion from the 2010 soccer World Cup.

Any UCI profits from the new races would be re-invested into the sport and distributed among teams, McQuaid said. Teams are pushing for more revenue amid a plan by London-based sports marketing company Gifted Group Ltd. to manage a 10-race series from next year in which teams would own 64 percent of the business, according to a copy of the proposal. A phone message left at Gifted Group’s offices wasn’t immediately returned.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Duff in Madrid at aduff4@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at at celser@bloomberg.net

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