Dubai business group buys Spanish club Getafe

A Dubai business group bought Spanish soccer club Getafe on

Thursday for at least $100 million, becoming the latest Middle East

investor to take over a European team.

The Royal Emirates Group of Companies wouldn’t say exactly how

much it paid for the topflight Spanish club. But Kaiser Rafiq, a

partner and managing director of the business conglomerate, said

the price ranged from $100 to $130 million.

Rafiq said ”70 to 75 percent has been paid up front” in cash

and that none of the funds are coming from the Dubai government. Of

the remainder, he said, there are ”some legalities that have to be

gone through” but that Getafe was happy with the structure of the

deal.

”This is strictly a private business deal,” he said.

The Dubai government said through its media office that it was

not involved in the deal, and that neither was its ruler, Sheik

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The group, chaired by Sheik Butti bin Suhail Al Maktoum, said

the club’s name will remain unchanged but ”Team Dubai” will be

added to the team shirts, stadium and other merchandise. A logo

presented at the news conference featured Getafe’s name and blue

colors above Team Dubai – though Team Dubai lettering was

larger.

”We are really glad today to be witnessing this great moment,”

Sheik Butti said. ”We are really happy and glad to sign this

contract with Spain’s first division Getafe. We are also happy to

include the name Team Dubai. I hope this will improve relations

between the UAE and Spain.”

Getafe president Angel Torres, who flew to Dubai for the news

conference along with team captain Manuel del Moral, dismissed

fears that fans would be put off by the addition of Team Dubai on

the logo.

”The sponsors or whomever is working behind the scenes is not

important,” he said. ”What is important is becoming

competitive.”

Moral also said he doesn’t expect any backlash over the new

logo.

”We need to send a message of confidence to supporters,” he

said. ”We have examples where these kind of associations have

pushed clubs to grow and we can be confident that this will happen

to Getafe.”

Sheik Butti is the latest Middle East investor to buy a European

club, after Abu Dhabi’s Sheik Mansour took over English team

Manchester City in 2008 and a Qatar sheik purchased Spanish club

Malaga in June.

There have also been reports in recent months that the Qatari

royal family was considering a bid for Manchester United, but the

Glazer family owners say they don’t want to sell the Premier League

club.

Torres said Getafe – which has been in the first division for

seven years – has entertained offers in the past but Dubai’s was

the ”most interesting and serious.”

”We want the club to become first class after Real Madrid and

Barcelona,” he said. ”For the investors group, it will be a good

deal because they can show what they want in our country. The

important part now is that both parties do what they said they

would do.”

The acquisition comes at a difficult time for the club, which

was founded in 1945 but has only been in Spain’s top flight since

being promoted for the 2004-2005 season. Since then, it has lost

two Copa del Rey finals. Last season, Getafe finished sixth in the

league.

This season the modest Madrid club has struggled, winning only

one of its last 10 games and sitting four points above the

relegation zone.

Both sides said the sale could breathe some new life into Getafe

and allow it to buy several top players – just as Manchester City

did after it was taken over.

”We have players in mind,” Rafiq said. ”We might take them

from this region as well as get some new blood from various parts

of Europe. In the coming year, we are definitely going to secure

position in the top six. Whatever it takes, we will do it.”

Rafiq said the investors wouldn’t be changing the management for

now and have instructed them to start looking for talent.

Rafiq said Sheik Butti is a member of Dubai’s ruling Al Maktoum

dynasty. He is not among the family’s most prominent members or

part of the ruler’s inner circle, which runs Dubai’s hereditary

government.

Little is known about the Royal Emirates Group of Companies.

Its corporate website offers few details except that the

conglomerate has interests in 64 companies and brands – though it

doesn’t list any of them. The company shares its phone number with

a roommate referral service in the city-state, and has said its

businesses include operations in the oil and gas and real estate

sectors.

The sale comes as the sheikdom is grappling with immense

government-linked debts and a prolonged slump in its once hot real

estate market.

Rafiq said this week that adding Dubai to the team’s logo and

other merchandise was part of a bid to boost the flagging city and

show that it ”was capable of doing anything.”

The strategy echoes Dubai’s approach to sports over the years,

including bringing in stars such as Roger Federer and Tiger Woods

for tennis and golf tournaments as a way to woo tourists to its

five-star hotels and glitzy shopping.

Associated Press writer Adam Schreck contributed to this

report.