Atletico Madrid to buy minority share in Ligue 2 side Lens
La Liga club Atletico Madrid have taken a share of bankrupt French second-division side Lens along with a group of investors -- some of whom are based in the U.K.
AFP report that Atletico will have a direct 35-percent stake in Lens, with a Luxembourg based company called Solferino -- headed by the Champions League finalists' long-time advisor Ignacio Aguillo -- having the remaining 65 percent.
Lens were relegated from Ligue 1 in 2011, and although the Sang et Or won promotion in 2014, they were not allowed back into the top flight due to budget irregularities.
Aguillo told a news conference that Atletico would be involved as the new investors would look to get the club back into Ligue 1 while stabilising their finances.
"The objective is to return the club to the level of their potential," the Spaniard said. "Atletico will bring their sporting planning, their networks and some players. The investors and Atletico have seen the quality of the club, their fans, employees and facilities.
"The priority is to return to Ligue 1, make signings and generate business to stabilise the club in the medium term. This is not just about moving players between Atletico and Lens."
The full details of the takeover have not been released, but Lens' financial issues were not solved when Azerbaijani businessman Hafiz Mammadov took over the club in 2013.
With debts of €12 million, the club were placed in bankruptcy, with the most recent change of ownership overseen by the French courts. Their Stade Felix Bollaert-Delelis has been been refurbished for this summer's Euro 2016 finals -- and hosts the Group X game between England and Wales on June 16.
Aguillo is listed prominently on Atletico's official club website [alongside ex-Manchester United and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon] as an "advisor to the board" at the Estadio Vicente Calderon. He said that the Solferino company would be committed to a transparent running of Lens based on strong business principles.
"[Solferino] represents various investors including some located in London, who have behind them five investors who prefer not to be public," Aguillo said. "We have a commitment to transparency regarding the club, their fans and their employees. We want to create a growth plan through investment and controlling costs.
"It is normal that the fans are angry, but that is because of how chaotic the situation has been. They can be relaxed now."
Lens club president Gervais Martel is to remain in the position. He and spoke of a potential issue with UEFA should his club return to European competition and be drawn to face their part-owners.
"If Atletico and Lens are drawn together in Europe, Atletico will leave as a shareholder," Martel said at the news conference. "But that is a long way away. At the moment Lens are not even in Ligue 1."
Atletico's recent success -- including La Liga, Copa del Rey and Europa League trophies -- has come with the club having made heavy use of third-party investors to sign big name players, with Kenyon, Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes and the Doyen Group all being closely involved.