October 21, 2023
Oh, the names we trust…
For me, L’Equipe has always been my first and most trusted source of news for sports-related information in France. That remains true today, though it must be said that readers increasingly must differentiate (often based on the author) between that which is ‘journalism’, that which is ‘editorial’, and regrettably with other sources, that which is click-bait trash. These days, as traditional media business models are under assault, even the most respected sources of information can be seduced by the benefits of tabloid tendencies.
Today’s topic of my public statement is, however, quite disappointing. I am surprised to see a number of articles, written by accomplished journalists, that have chosen to publish information that is either entirely untrue or, at a minimum, profoundly misleading.
It has never been my desired practice to respond to press stories, though we are starting to see sufficient evidence that our supporters are being consistently misled by articles that are not appropriately balanced by necessary and competing viewpoints. Anonymous sources are never as valuable as named sources but, in this respect, they have been given full license to distort. Though there are certainly many other examples, please consider the following article as emblematic of the problem. I choose this article, specifically, because of how far it varies from a truthful representation of actual circumstances, and also because its conclusions now are being repeated as fact, by many other journalists, to advance a continuing false narrative of a crisis that simply does not exist.
L’Equipe, October 3, 2023
A Textor investor already wants to leave OL
Regarding the above referenced article, I did reach out to one of its authors, with whom I have a civil relationship, to discuss this regrettable work of fiction. I will concede that he did offer to consider corrections…but his story was so quickly repeated by other journalists, that his half-hearted correction effort would certainly fallen on deaf ears. Moreover, as I have seen too many examples of his heavy bias, I really don’t trust his willingness to fully retract incorrect statements. Today’s journalists rarely have the appetite for comprehensive revision or the admission that certain articles just should have never been written. The truth is that this particular author made his mind up about me the moment we met on an EasyJet flight (probably before actually) and I just don’t have the ambition to change his mind.
So, what’s wrong with this article?...Everything.
This article is based on a single element of a very complicated business arrangement, which the authors clearly do not understand…they have direct and efficient access to me, yet they chose not to seek explanation or counter-balancing comment from a direct source. They abandoned their professional obligation of journalistic objectivity, because the fictional story was just too good to resist. The resulting article, which is as malicious as it is intellectually bankrupt, is a hit piece that deceives the reader into believing that an intentional and sound business decision of our Eagle board (which is expected to lead to a positive business outcome) is somehow an ominous sign of trouble on the horizon.
As we are now at least five articles past a trilogy of tabloid trash, I must say ‘enough is enough’. If your editors refuse to challenge your objectivity, we’ll do it for them (mindful of the fact that such a statement will do nothing to improve our relationship with the venerable L’Equipe).
So, let’s start with quick highlights of the Untrue or Misleading statements of the article in question…
“A Textor investor already wants to leave OL”
This Headline is FALSE. Iconic Investors have made clear to us that they would prefer not to withdraw their investment, and they would like to negotiate the terms of their continued participation, based on the reality that Eagle has no desire to merge with their Special Purpose Acquisition Company. Iconic Investors continue to be active and supportive members of the board of directors of both Eagle Football and Olympique Lyonnais.
What is true is that Iconic proposed that we extend the period of time within which we would consider a merger of Eagle Football with the Iconic SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company). If I chose not to sign the extension, they would exercise their right to withdraw…which, IMPORTANTLY, would give me the exclusive right to buy their shares at an attractive price.
It was clear at this time that the SPAC market had imploded and it was no longer a preferred way for companies to achieve a public listing. It was also true that the Iconic SPAC had lost more than half of its capital in trust, and had also lost the support of its underwriter Credit Suisse, once they were acquired by UBS. Eagle Football, OLG and I ultimately believed that more direct pathways to the NYSE should be considered. We, therefore, elected not to grant an extension of time to Iconic on the terms that they had requested.
Iconic then sent notice of its exercise of the Put Option (on July 26). At the same time, they made it clear in their forwarding email, and through direct conversations, that they preferred to stay in the deal and they hoped to negotiate a renewed approach to a public listing. To this day, leading principals of Iconic are active and supportive members of the board of directors of Eagle Football and Olympique Lyonnais.
So, to be clear, though the L’Equipe headline was clearly intended to reveal a negative circumstance, the authors have it wrong. The departure from the SPAC strategy, by our decision not to agree to terms of an extension, was intentional…and, potentially, would yield an attractive business outcome (with, or independent of, certain of the partners of Iconic). L’Equipe over-reacted to, and wrongfully did not seek clarification of, business correspondence that was clearly not a notice of intended departure, but rather an effort to negotiate a revision of an Eagle relationship, based on changing business circumstances, that has no effect on OL.
“An agreement would not have been honored between the two partners”
This statement, which was captioned in Bold, is FALSE. No agreements have been broken. There are no such claims by any party connected to the Eagle/Iconic relationship. The difficulty of the SPAC market, and the possible decision of the Eagle board to not pursue a SPAC with Iconic, was anticipated in the agreements and the parties now have various rights and opportunities granted under the agreements. We believe this statement to be a libelous claim that is intended to impugn the integrity and reputation of the principals of Eagle (namely my own). Again, had the authors simply sought comment in advance, they might have avoided making (in boldface font) such an irresponsible and claim.
“Troubles of all kinds have been accumulating for John Textor, the new owner of Olympique Lyonnais, since he took control of the club last December.”
Well, this is certainly true as it relates to a variety of shareholder relationship issues. Not a day passes without an assault from our former shareholder, or his friends in politics, as we do our best to stay focused on football…However, as it relates to the topic of this article, this statement is profoundly untrue. Again, the decision to not pursue a SPAC with Iconic was our choice and the Iconic option agreement provides a significant and positive business opportunity for me, personally, to buy the Iconic shares at a value which may be well less than fair value. To be sure, the L’Equipe statement that THIS situation is one of the ‘troubles’ of Eagle is nonsense. The statement has the value of tabloid sensationalism.
“Is John Textor able to repay €75 million when he has not yet sold all the assets he wants to part with? Difficult to answer. A certainty, this request for withdrawal further obscures the first months of the American businessman's governance in Lyon.”
This question is irresponsibly posed, as it is based on a fictional construct. Yes, I am able to purchase their shares, and it is my belief that they have grown in value, as a result of our overall Eagle business, to be worth much more than US$75 million. That said, if I choose not to purchase their shares over the allowable 12-month period, the shares may be sold through a marketing process. In that case, my obligation is limited to a make-whole concept, where I would pay to Iconic the difference between US$75 million (plus interest) and the value realized in sale…and, again, if I believe their shares to be worth more than $150 million in value today, I really don’t feel much risk at all (which is one of the reasons why I elected not to sign their extension request). If I did not feel comfortable buying their shares, I would have just signed the extension. Again, the authors are far too quick to interpret a thimble of information as an ominous revelation.
Also concerning is their inference that this matter has anything to do with Olympique Lyonnais. It doesn’t. The barter between investors, private equity funds and equity-oriented credit institutions is somewhat typical these days…and the movement of shares from one party to the next does not have an impact on OLG. We are not relying on Iconic to provide additional financial support for our increasingly healthy ‘balance sheet’, so it really does not matter who owns their shares. The authors should know this.
“Less than a year after the change of governance, this withdrawal is a stain and raises questions.”
This statement is FALSE. There is no withdrawal imminent. There are also many new parties looking to join in support of our mission. We remain ‘on plan’ in our business. I do think this article is certainly a “stain”, just not on the reputation of anyone at Eagle Football, Iconic or OLG - and I do think that news of Iconic’s change in posture should raise questions…questions that should have been asked by the journalists and their editors before publishing this article.
Why would I respond?...well, it’s certainly not because we have thin-skin. Public criticism is standard fare in business, and even more so in football. I have responded because I am becoming very concerned with repeated and transparent attempts by certain journalists (and former leaders of our club) to permanently damage our developing relationship with our supporter base. When accomplished and respected journalists, at market leading news organizations, produce such poorly sourced and inaccurate information, with such beautiful penmanship, we can only surmise that they have malice intent. It simply cannot be true that they don’t understand the standards of journalistic integrity…to believe so would be to question their competence…and that is clearly not the case. These guys are Pros.
So, why are they doing it?…day after day…viewing every piece of information as an opportunity to cast doubt and divide.
If OL should announce that one of the most respected investment banks in the world is organizing a €300 million single-structure refinance of OL’s horribly inefficient debt capitalization structure, and such bond refinancing will carry impressive credit ratings of ‘BBB’ and ‘BBB+’, then the articles in France describe this as a desperate search for money…when it’s exactly the kind of sound business decision that we need, a project started by JMA and finished by Eagle.
If Eagle should announce that it would prefer to sell OLG’s newly built basketball/music arena (built at a cost of €140 million, with 100% debt of €140 million) to pay down debt and re-invest the builder profit into the core business of player development, then the French press ponders if this decision emanates from an Eagle liquidity crisis.
If Eagle/Textor projects that OLG will not have governance restrictions on future transfer windows, these same authors at L’Equipe report news of a promise of spectacular spending to occur in January (compelling fodder that they hope will result in a new article in February of broken promises)
If Eagle/Textor projects that our strong financial performance should satisfy the guidance and advice of the DNCG, they report this proclamation as an open challenge by ‘the American’, a fast approaching ‘show-down’.
Finally, if ‘the American’ makes financially conservative decisions to sell cash-flow negative businesses for substantial profit, or sell speculative physical assets that were financed with 100% debt, or re-position a leading professional women’s team to be better supported and better financed (for the benefit of women), then these authors say that we have put “an end to the empire”.
L’Equipe, October 3, 2023
John Textor, l'insaisissable patron de l'OL
…a first class ‘hit piece’ with a clear agenda and a false portrayal of a person that simply does not exist. I do not know the man they call ‘John Textor’ in this article, nor would I want to meet him. These journalists don’t know him either and should be ashamed of their work. With hundreds of people available to speak, who actually do know me, they made no attempt to speak directly with me and very little effort to speak with those that know me privately. They did choose to rely heavily on a source who appears only to live on Twitter and could not attest to having met with me more than a handful of times in his entire life (and not at all since 2008). There final work is a purported feature piece with more anonymous sources than facts, and plenty of “power, money, glory” hyperbole…real juicy stuff hoping to find a gullible audience.
For journalists that choose to write a biographical piece, it’s normally a good idea to interview the subject (instead, they skipped that part and just referred to me as elusive)…and if “power, money, glory” was so obviously my ethos, how have I hidden this secret so well over the last few years as my private projects have led to an over-exposed public profile. Everything that could be learned about me, in a similar rebuilding project, has been on full display (for good and for bad) in Brasil over the last eighteen months. Just visit Fogaonet (https://www.fogaonet.com), do a simple name search, and you’ll see 18 months of scrutiny that will teach you more than plucking people off of Twitter from the year 2008.
Power, Money, Glory?...Seriously? I am known in business to forego Power when I have it, as I prefer to work in a ‘collective’…I don’t need more Money, at least not personally, as it only brings ‘fake friends’… and if I wanted Glory, then I would have already hired a publicist to grant more interviews to the cynical elitists who write articles like this one.
Sooner or later, I will find a better way to communicate properly with our supporters, as I fully expect my relationship with the mainstream, click-bait press to be both comical and counterproductive…but it’s not my relationship with the media that matters, it’s the public’s right to rely on impartial journalists that matters most. Journalists will surely find much better stories, if they choose to follow the truth, at the expense of fiction.