Episode 5 – Red Bull
Belgian billionaire Roland Duchâtelet purchased Charlton Athletic in the English Championship in January 2014. In doing so he had just bought his fourth club – alongside Charlton he also owned Standard Liege (Belgium), Alcorcon (Spain), and Carl Zeiss Jena (Germany). As well as owning these teams outright, his son owns Ujpest (Hungary). Whilst the Pozzos and Red Bull have built their empire over a period of many years, Duchâtelet has been quick to expand his empire, with Standard Liege being made the first club in his empire in the summer 2011.
Standard Liege had varying amounts of success during his time in charge finishing 4th, 6th, 1st and 4th during his 4 years there before he sold the club in the summer of 2015. For a businessman of Duchâtelet’s ability, he certainly doesn’t seem to translate that across to football. In his 4 year stint at Standard Liege he offloaded stars such as Axel Witsel (for £8m), Christian Benteke (for less than £1m), Steven Defour (for £5m) and Elaquim Mangala (for £5m). Then in the summer he sold Michy Batshuayi and Imoh Ezekiel, who between them contributed 28 goals as Liege finished top of the table (before losing in the title play-off) – the combined price for these two talented, then 21 year olds, with the world at their feet was just £11m, a paltry sum in this day and age.
Charlton have also suffered at his hands, he took over in January 2014 and immediately offloaded key players such as Yann Kermorgant who had scored 29 goals in 89 league games for Charlton. Charlton had finished 18th in the Championship the year before his arrival and saw an initial rise under his ownership, rising to 12th in 14/15. The 15/16 however was an unmitigated disaster, with the club being relegated after finishing 22nd. Charlton look set for a mid-table finish in League 1, with fans holding multiple protests calling for Duchâtelet’s sale of the club.
The other clubs in his network have been a mixed bag. German side Carl Zeiss Jena look set to make the promotion play-offs into the 3. Liga, whilst Spanish Segunda side Alcorcon are in the relegation zone. Hungarian side Ujpest are sitting in mid-table of the Hungarian first division and his re-introduction to Belgian football last summer with Sint-Truiden hasn’t been a roaring success, with them finishing 12th in the Pro League.
Duchâtelet could have a fantastic network of clubs under his belt if he wanted to, but it seems he prefers stripping the clubs of any valuable assets, with no real plan for any of the clubs. Focusing on Charlton could’ve been his step up to the footballing big-time, using the Premier League money to help bankroll purchases of young talents, using the clubs in Spain, Belgium and Germany to prepare them for the step-up to England. Now Charlton are in League 1 however, it’ll take substantial investment and likely a fair amount of time in order to get them back to a decent level. With the fans protesting for the sale of the club however, this seems unlikely and I can’t help but feel sorry for the fans of any Duchâtelet run club.
Join me tomorrow for the last episode in my MCO series where I investigate a variety of small MCOs and try to predict the future for MCOs.