Atletico buy French second division side Lens

Spanish council member of Atletico Madrid's board Ignacio Aguillo (L) and President of French football team RC Lens Gervais Martel (R) hold a press conference on May 23, 2016 in Lens, France

Champions League finalists Atletico Madrid on Monday completed the takeover of bankrupt French second division side Lens through a Luxembourg company. "We hope to bring in Atletico's expertise," said Ignacio Aguillo, a member of the Spanish side's board, told a press conference after a French commercial court approved the takeover. Atletico will have a direct 35% stake in Lens, while Aguillo is a major shareholder in Solferino, a Luxembourg company that will have the remaining 65%. Lens, known as the "blood and gold" because of their shirt colours, won the French championship in 1998 but have become embroiled in financial controversy in recent years. Relegated in 2011, Lens won a promotion place back to Ligue 1 in 2014 but this was blocked by the French league because of budget irregularities. The sanction was overturned in one appeal but the promotion was later ruled definitively invalid. Lens stadium has been refurbished for the European Championship finals -- England will play their key group game against Wales there -- but Lens will be the only second division host of Euro 2016. Promotion is "a clear objective," Aguillo said. "We will respect the identity of the club," added the Spanish businessman, who said the new owners had a "long term ambition" for Lens. Aguillo is a partner in the Solferino company with French businessman, Gilles Fretigne, chief financial officer for the European operations of Amber Capital, a US hedge fund. The Spanish businessman said the takeover still needs the approval of the Atletico shareholders and there would be a general assembly in June. Facing debts of 12 million euros ($13.5m), Lens president Gervais Martel, who will remain in charge, put the club under the control of a bankruptcy court to force an accelerated sale. Lens had previously been controlled by Azerbaijani businessman Hafiz Mammadov who rescued Lens in 2013 with 20 million euros of his own money but failed to provide promised new investment.

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