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Tinkov Buys Tour de France Cycling Team From Bjarne Riis

Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador, center, poses with the Saxo Bank cycling team on Oct. 9, 2013 in Paris. Photographer: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images
Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador, center, poses with the Saxo Bank cycling team on Oct. 9, 2013 in Paris. Photographer: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Oleg Tinkov, founder of Russian lender Tinkoff Credit Systems, acquired the Saxo Bank cycling team led by two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador.

Tinkoff bought the squad from former rider Bjarne Riis. The pair announced the agreement at a news conference in London without giving financial terms.

Riis said he will remain as manager of the team for at least three more years. Tinkoff was previously a sponsor of the Lyngby, Denmark-based team.

“I have spent the last four or five years searching for sponsors, it has been very stressful to work from year-to-year,” Riis told the news conference. “This gives me more freedom.”

Tinkoff Credit Systems raised $1.09 billion in an Oct. 22 initial public offering. Tinkov, a Russian, retained a 50.9 percent stake. Shares sank as much as 47 percent on Nov. 15 after Kommersant newspaper reported lawmakers sought to end distribution of credit cards by mail and courier.

Riis’s team had income of 9.06 million euros ($12.3 million) in 2012, which was mostly spent on rider salaries, according to a filing by Riis Cycling A/S.

Tinkov said he will aim to bolster the team with “star” riders, without mentioning any names.

In 2007, Riis admitted doping in his career which included victory at the 1996 Tour de France. His name was subsequently erased from the race handbook. Contador was stripped of his 2010 Tour win for failing a drugs test. He finished fourth at this year’s edition of the race.

“There are fewer and few sponsors” in cycling, Contador said. “It’s great that someone like Oleg gets involved.”

Online trader Saxo Bank A/S will remain as a team sponsor and the squad will become known as Tinkoff-Saxo, Tinkov said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Duff in Madrid at aduff4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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