If the “merger” between Radioshack and Leopard took people by surprise, perhaps it shouldn’t be too much of a revelation. Because Leopard team boss Flavio Becca has already made a name for himself in the world of sports thanks to combining teams.
Back in the early 1990s the Luxembourg city of Dudelange had three football teams, Alliance Dudelange, Stade Dudelange, and US Dudelange. Each had an illustrious past, with wins in the national league or trophies but they’d all fallen on hard times. Faced with decline, they merged, creating F91 Dudelange, the 91 being the year the trio merged into one team.
Flavio Becca was a key force behind the merger, injecting money into the club to buy players and fund new training facilities. Cause or coincidence, F91 quickly became Luxembourg’s top team. F91 Dudelange won the 2010-11 league in Luxembourg and has dominated the sport in the Duchy. Today there is talk of a new stadium and Becca’s main activity, real estate, is behind this.
There’s not much cross-over between real estate and pro cycling although the Leopard team were based for the spring classics in the Source hotel near Spa in Belgium that’s jointly owned by Becca and fellow Luxembourg entrepreneur Éric Lux, himself is heavily involved in sports, this time Formula 1. Real estate moguls can be attracted to football clubs for the stadiums and training grounds, all very valuable real estate that’s often in a prime location, where you can build hotels, leisure and conference facilities plus plenty more.
By contrast the most valuable real estate for a cycling team is the 1,000 square centimetres on the kit. As several have said, it was the failure to lease this space to a sponsor that appears to have prompted the sudden changes. Becca is a businessman, not necessarily a cycling fan. He wants result and money spent is an investment to be recouped by sponsorship.
Whether Radioshack-Nissan-Trek succeeds remains to be seen. But the merger as a means to consolidate a team has proved successful for Becca.