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Mitchelton-Scott owner: Manuela Fundación proposal ‘wasn’t the deal I thought’

Gerry Ryan reveals how cross-continent communications and confused messaging led to him shuttering negotiations.

Gerry Ryan, owner of Mitchelton-Scott, has revealed new details about the confusion and misunderstanding behind the team’s on-off interactions with Spain’s Manuela Fundación.

Last month saw the announcement of what was reported as a naming rights deal between the Australian setup and Spanish enterprise Manuela Fundación. The following days were awash with rumors, hearsay, and conflicting details of the deal from the two parties. Less than a week after the initial announcement, Ryan confirmed that he had called negotiations to a halt, and the team would remain as Mitchelton-Scott.

Ryan, who established the team in 2012, spoke to The Sydney Morning Herald on Friday, offering a glimpse into the muddled interactions between Mitchelton-Scott staff and Manuela Fundación owner Francisco Huertas and sidekick Stefano Garzelli.

“Put it this way … it was different,” Ryan said of the deal that had been initially hammered out by then-general manager of the team, Shayne Bannan.

“I wasn’t totally across the deal and when I started to look at the deal … it wasn’t the deal that I thought it was.”

While Mitchelton-Scott representatives claimed during the topsy-turvy six-day story that the deal only involved naming rights, meanwhile, over in Spain, Huertas’s team was stating it was for outright ownership.

Ryan told  The Sydney Morning Herald that he was not initially involved in correspondence and face-to-face meetings with his Spanish counterparts, leaving long-time sidekick Bannan to do the business. Ryan never met Huertas himself, a businessman based in Granada, Spain.

“Bannan did [meet Huertas]. I had no correspondence apart from a couple of emails with the gentleman,” Ryan said. “The problem was everything was done over Zoom. What was happening is he had a team of advisers and I think, in translation, a lot of things got misconstrued about what they were looking for and what we were actually looking for.

“I came into it late in the conversation. The deal had basically been agreed to but hadn’t got my blessing. I came into it in the home straight and I scratched the horse.”

With Ryan’s realization of the nature of the deal, he shut down further negotiations. Less than two weeks later, it was reported that Bannan was out, along with associate Alvaro Crespi.

“[Bannan] decided to leave because it had fallen over,” Ryan said. “Shayne was very upfront and said, ‘I’ve brought the team to this stage and I think it probably needs fresh eyes and fresh direction.'”

For now, Mitchelton-Scott remains the same Australian squad it has been for the past eight years, with Ryan pulling the purse strings, Matt White in the team car, with Darach McQuaid and Brent Copeland coming in to fill Crespi and Bannan’s shoes.

It was recently confirmed that Ryan would continue to back the team through 2022. The WorldTour’s only Australian setup isn’t going anywhere for a while.

“It’s got Australian DNA, even though 80 percent of our staff are European,” Ryan said.

“You’ll probably see a couple of more Aussies come into the team next year. We try and put in the best team that we can recruit and afford. We don’t have the same budget as [Team] Ineos and a couple of the other big teams but I think we do OK.”