Atletico confirmed this morning, via the Associated Press, that they have successfully bought the French second division side, Lens, following the club's plunge into bankruptcy. The Spanish side will hold a direct 35% stake in the club while the Luxembourg company, Solferino, will hold the remaining 65%.
"We hope to bring in Atletico's expertise," commented Ignacio Aguillo, board member at Atletico and who also holds links with Solferino, "We will respect the identity of the club,"
The debts of the organisation are estimated at €12m, and it's been confirmed that current president Gervais Martel will stay in charge. They had previously been under the control of Azerbaijani businessman Hafiz Mammadov, who bought the club in 2013 for €20m but a lack of further investment caused problems.
Aguillo is a partner in the Luxembourg company with Gilles Fretigne, the chief financial offer for the European operations of Amber Capital, a US hedge fund. The takeover will still need to be approved by Atleti's shareholders with a general assembly being held in June. Lens, meanwhile, finished sixth in Ligue two last season with 58 points, seven behind 3rd placed newly-promoted Metz.
They do have some history with Atletico, having played them in the 1999-2000 UEFA Cup fourth round. Lens would go onto win with an aggregate score of 6-4 before their European dreams were dashed in the semi-finals, at the hands of Arsenal.
The team, which resides in the North of France, have had their share of bad luck in recent years. Despite winning the league title in 1998, their fortunes have trended downwards ever since the success. They achieved promotion to Ligue 1 in 2014, three years after their relegation, but financial problems at the club led to the French league blocking the move up. After a hectic few years, there's hope at last that the takeover will lead to a far better future.