The marriage between Australian WorldTour team Mitchelton-Scott and the Spanish nonprofit Manuela Fundación appears to be off.
On Thursday, team owner Gerry Ryan said negotiations between himself and Manuela Fundación owner Francisco Huertas reached an impasse, and that he has decided to continue the team under its original Mitchelton-Scott name.
“We felt a strong initial connection with Mr. Francisco Huertas, the Manuela Fundación and their noble aims,” Ryan said in a release. “However, as the negotiations have evolved after the initial announcement on Friday, we have concluded that the relationship will not proceed. We wish Mr. Francisco Huertas and the Manuela Fundación all of the best for the future.”
The news is the latest wrinkle in a week-long story that concerns the future of Australia’s only WorldTour men’s and women’s teams. Last week the team announced it had struck a deal with the Spanish nonprofit to take over title sponsorship of the squad, which was launched in 2012 under the name Orica-GreenEdge.
But in recent days the negotiations between Ryan and Huertas appeared to carry over into the international press, and the hurdle between the two concerned the ownership of the team’s WorldTour license. Ryan said that he would retain ownership, while Huertas’s representatives said that the deal gave included sponsorship rights in 2020, and granted ownership of the license starting in 2021.
Emilio Rodriguez, manager of the Manuela Fundación, told Spanish wire services EFE that the two parties had signed a deal on June 5 that granted ownership rights to the Spanish outfit.
In the team release, Ryan said that the team would now continue under the Mitchelton-Scott name through 2021. Additionally, the team would return to paying its riders and staff their full wages once WorldTour racing starts up again in August.
Since the coronavirus pandemic shut down racing, Mitchelton-Scott had reportedly slashed wages to 30 percent of their original value.
“We believe in this team, and the people and culture that have made it so successful these past eight years,” Ryan said. “Our riders have been inspiring in their commitment and motivation in what has been an uncertain season, and our staff loyal and determined to provide the best service possible in what will be a busy and challenging end to the year. We can’t wait to get back on the road and start winning more races.”
Foundation representatives said an official announcement would be forthcoming, but ex-pro Stefano Garzelli, who helped broker the deal said everyone on the Spanish side were caught off guard by the unexpected retreat.
“We say that there is a signed contract that specified everything,” Garzelli told MARCA. “Everything was ready to go, and we don’t understand why Ryan is doing this now. We hope to keep going. We end up with mud on our face, and everyone was excited about it, but we will keep going. We’ll get in one way or another.”