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Report: Brailsford declines Tinkov offer to take over Team Sky

Spanish media report that Oleg Tinkov offered to save Team Sky, which is seeking a sponsor for 2020. He denies report as "bullshit."

File this one under the “what could possibly go wrong?” category.

Reports out of Spain suggest that Russian millionaire Oleg Tinkov offered Sky boss Dave Brailsford 20 million euros to save Team Sky beyond 2019, when the current title sponsorship is set to end.

The Spanish sports daily AS reported that Tinkov, who has been in and out of cycling over the past decade, approached Brailsford with a 20 million euro offer to save the team going into 2020.

The report suggested that Tinkov wanted more control than Brailsford was willing to offer, and the deal never materialized. There was no immediate comment from Sky. Tinkov told Cyclingnews’s Stephen Farrand the report was “bullshit.”

If true, it’s no surprise that Brailsford would reject an offer from the controversial and unpredictable Tinkov. The Russian was often at loggerheads with his own riders and staffers during his rocky tenure in the peloton. It’s hard to imagine the buttoned-up Brailsford, who enjoys near total control over the Team Sky empire, would cede control to someone as impulsive and controversial as Tinkov.

Tinkov, 51, originally came into cycling in the 2000s with his namesake team, which later morphed into the Katusha team. He came back in 2012 in a deal to join Bjarne Riis’s then-Saxo Bank team. In 2013, Tinkov took over ownership of the team, buying out and later firing Riis.

Tinkov signed Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan to lucrative, high-profile deals that drove up the marketplace, much to the chagrin of rival team managers. Tinkov often criticized the cycling business model, but he left the sport when his team disbanded at the end of 2016.

Tinkov certainly could afford 20 million euros. He retains a high stake of ownership in Tinkoff Bank, whose stock price has nearly quadrupled since hitting lows in 2015-2016. Forbes estimates Tinkov’s personal fortune at $2.2 billion.

Brailsford, meanwhile, continues a search for new backers to take over the team beyond 2019. In December, parent company Sky confirmed it would end its long-running sponsorship at the end of this season.

There have been unconfirmed reports that Sky’s new owner, Comcast, might be willing to cover up to 70 percent of the team’s financial obligations for two seasons.

Team Sky officials said they would not be offering a running commentary on the team’s ongoing sponsorship search.

So far, Brailsford has not revealed much about where the team’s future might lie. There have been rumors of interest from China, French luxury conglomerate LVMH, and Israel Cycling Academy owner Sylvan Adams. It appears, however, it won’t include Tinkov as a partner.