Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim takes control of Oviedo
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -Financially stricken Spanish club Real Oviedo announced Saturday that Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim has agreed to invest ?2 million ($2.5 million) in the third-tier team, which had been facing bankruptcy before a massive fund-raising effort by fans.
Oviedo narrowly staved off financial extinction after supporters over the past two weeks bought more than ?1.5 million ($1.9 million) in new shares in the club.
The club said in a statement on Saturday that Slim decided to become the new majority shareholder because of Oviedo's "history in Spanish professional football and above all for the extraordinary support of its fans.''
According to Forbes magazine, Slim is the world's richest person with a net worth of $69 billion. Slim made his fortune in the telecommunications industry.
"This challenge and ambition is strictly a sports investment and one that looks to benefit the club and its fans,'' the club's statement said regarding Slim's plans. "(The investment) will try to support Oviedo's player so they can reach their goals and the club can reach the division that corresponds to its history and values.''
Oviedo, which has spent a total of 38 seasons in the top division, said that Slim plans to use the club "to create synergies and exchanges between Spanish, Mexican and Latin American football.''
In September, Slim bought 30-percent stakes in two Mexican football teams, Pachuca and Leon.
"It's a good day, a very good day,'' Oviedo spokesman David Alonso told The Associated Press, adding that fans are still buying up shares of the club at the low price of ?10.75 ($13.74). The share offering is set to end Saturday night. Shares cost ?60 ($77) at its initial offering 20 years ago.
Unlike two weeks ago when fans started to do their part in what appeared to be a hopeless cause, Oviedo's supporters are now buying a part of a club that appears to have a much brighter future. Four shares earns a buyer a seat and vote at the annual shareholders meeting.
"People are still buying shares, it's an investment,'' said Alonso. "People are still buying because they feel they form a part of this club and they know that every little bit helps.''
Oviedo was relegated from the top flight in 2001, and then fell as far as the fourth division.
Players including Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla, Chelsea forward Juan Mata, Swansea's Miguel "Michu'' Perez, and Atletico Madrid's Adrian Lopez have all played for Oviedo.
It has a fan base of 20,000 supporters and a stadium that can seat 30,500 spectators, putting it on par with many first-division clubs.