A look at the accounts for the Ag2r Citroën team. The arrival of the car maker Citroën has given big boost to the budget and thanks to the published accounts we can see exactly how much they got, an even how much it cost them to land this blue-chip backer.
Ag2r Citroën? AG2R La Mondiale is one France’s largest insurance companies offering pension plans, life insurance, pet cover and other savings. It’s a mutual where policy holders own the business. The firm has been a sponsor of the team since 1998, first as co-sponsor then the team was named Ag2r La Mondiale from 2000-2020. For 2021 car maker Citroën, part of Stellantis (alongside Fiat, Peugeot, Chrysler, Opel and others) came on board as the joint title sponsor and, as we’ll see, it’s brought a big increase in the budget. The legal entity behind the team is France Cyclisme EUSRL.
2021? A decent season for the team, although in an unexpected way. It was the first season sans Romain Bardet who had been instrumental in demanding more from the team: he started going to DIY altitude training camps with sports science literature in his baggage; he finished with the team having its own specialist altitude coach. The arrival of Citroën saw them go big for the classics in signing Greg Van Avermaet to link up with Oliver Naesen but only had a third place in the Ronde to show, decent but maybe they wanted more bang for their bucks. However this is a team that clocked long ago that placing in the classics scores beaucoup UCI points. The surprise was Ben O’Connor in the Tour de France, a stage win in Tignes on a Sunday was box office, his fourth place overall was something they were equally proud of. The team completed a hatrick of grand tour stage wins thanks to Andrea Vendrame in the Giro and Clément Champoussin in the Vuelta.
Now let’s get stuck into the accounts…
That’s the budget for the year in red: €23,642,629.
As this chart shows, 2021 meant a big jump in the budget, a 47% increase (for sticklers: the figure for comparison over the years is the net number of €23.5 million). It’s big but all team budgets have been going up so it hasn’t propelled them too far up the standings. We don’t know Ineos’s budget for 2021 but in 2020 they were on €50.1 million, more than double.
The jump in the budget is Citroën coming on board. A note in the accounts explains this is a five year deal and interestingly it’s a tripartite agreement between the team and co-sponsor Ag2r La Mondiale, the two corporate sponsors have signed a deal together.
Another note explains that the team hired a specialist agency to find a co-sponsor and it gets a finder’s fee for the deal worth up to €1.281 million for brokering the deal, presumably the Citroën contract.
If €23.6 million comes in, the biggest expenditure is the wage bill with a total of €15.5 million in wages and social security charges, or 65% of the team budget.
Here we can see the staff, 70 people in total with 15 managers and 55 employees. Some teams hire in staff as contractors and Ag2r may well take on additional help from time to time but they show 70 people hired on the books here.
All accounts have a balance sheet with assets and liabilities but pro cycling teams just don’t carry big assets on the books. Here the total assets for the team amount to just under €1.9 million, of which about €1.5 million is matérial de transport, the team vehicles.
Talking of which, there are liabilities too and the team has taken out two loans totalling €880k to finance a new truck and a new team bus.
So far, so normal. Loyal readers will remember the team rode Factor bikes but this ended abruptly with the team lodging a claim for unpaid money from the bike company and recording a bad debt in the books.
The 2021 accounts show the Factor claim is still unsettled, there is an outstanding debt of €1.3 million but Factor made a payment of €500k during 2021.
After falling out with Factor the squad moved to Eddy Merckx bikes but this didn’t work out either as the accounts show a new provision, this time for Belgian Cycling Factory, the parent company of Eddy Merckx (and Ridley). It says the deal agreed a cash payment as well as the supply of bikes and kit. But only a “small portion” of the cash payment was paid by the sponsor, and in return the team decided not to return the bikes, despite what the contract stipulated (a further note in the accounts suggests some of all of these Merckx bikes have been sold for cash). The dispute is ongoing with a mediator involved. It’s a reminder that bike sponsorship is typically a team’s third source of revenue after the two title sponsors and the sum involved for a World Tour team is often into seven figures, plus bikes, groupsets and wheels on top.
If money makes the wheels go round, they got more wheels for 2021 thanks to Citroën. A big increase in the budget for allowed the team to hire several big name riders. Perhaps they didn’t get the results they wanted from this but they got some of what they needed with plenty of points to ensure the team wasn’t bothered by the relegation battle and their Tour de France exceeded expectations. The squad’s Chambéry feeder team remains a good supply of talent, they can shop for big names while relying on their U23 pipeline.
Peer into the notes gives us some insight into the business of running a team, whether the use of an agency to help land a co-sponsor, or the disputes over bike sponsorship in recent years which has left the team with unexpected shortfalls. However with two strong sponsors the team looks in a stable place for the coming years. 66 year old team owner Vincent Lavenu has been hinting at retirement and if that comes he can hope to hand over a stable franchise to any successor.