Ligue 1 leaders Lille pushed into Christmas sale to Callisto Sporting

December 23 – French Ligue 1 leaders Lille have been sold to a Callisto Sporting, a subsidiary of Luxembourg-based investment fund Merlyn Partners.

The Merlyn Partners project, financed by a former JP Morgan banker, is being headed up on the football side by ex-PSG and Rennes President Olivier Létang.

The deal was pressed on owner Gérard Lopez (also a Luxembourg-based businessman), by Elliott Management who have become nervous of the club’s ability to pay back €123 million outstanding on a €250 million loan provided to Lopez at the time of the acquisition in 2017 from Michel Seydoux.

That repayment is due August 2021. Elliott Management met with Lopez (pictured) early last week to assess the current financial position of French club football and in particular the loss of the Mediapro broadcast deal.

“Given the recent difficulties in the French first division and especially the uncertainty surrounding TV rights for the French league, it’s important for Lille to have an owner of reference, known to be financially sound, like Merlyn,” Lopez said in a statement.

The club statement announcing the takeover said that outstanding debt “will be significantly reduced and new equity will be injected into the club”.

It is not clear whether the club was acquired for the debt only, or if Lopez received a sum for handing over the assets.

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