Team RadioShack Nissan Trek’s financial challenges became more public today as spokesman Carlo Rock acknowledged that star riders had gone unpaid.
A story coming out of German sports press today suggests that RNT owes Andy and Frank Schleck USD $611,000. The translation doesn’t specify whether each brother is owed that amount or if it’s a total for both. The article also speculates that 27-year-old Jakob Fuglsang, left off the Tour de France team, is owed $183,000.
“It has surprised us, of course, that … the Schleck [brothers] and Fabian Cancellara complained to the UCI,” said Carlo Rock, a spokesman for RNT’s parent company Leopard S.A. “Why are there for a year now, in which the money was not paid, any understanding with the team aces?”
The unpaid wages add to the financial problems of RNT’s parent company, Leopard S.A., which has lost over USD $9.3 million. Leopard issued a statement saying that the team’s financial structure produced deficits that were not unexpected in its budget, adding that UCI had approved. If both Schlecks are owed that the monies above, it would push Leopard S.A.’s liabilities well over USD $10 million.
But Rock justified the unpaid wages by saying that approximately 25% comprises what he called “image rights,” that can be taxed favorably in Luxembourg. These funds are “to be transferred to accounts of obscure companies…. we have to be sure that we do not support as money laundering.” [This is Google Translate’s rendition of the quote and it may very well miss the true meaning of the sentence.] In the Luxembourg newspaper Tageblatt, an op-ed writer referred to Leopard boss Flavio Becca’s “opaque” corporate constructs.
Becoming testy, Rock suggested that the Schlecks and Cancellara don’t understand the details of a UCI contract. “…There are courts in Luxembourg, they can go there and then they can also, as Fuglsang [has], sue us.”
After winning the Tour of Luxembourg and backing up Frank Schleck in the Tour de Suisse, Fuglsang was left off RNT’s Tour de France squad and instead rode in the Tour of Austria. Rock confirmed that Fuglsang is suing RNT for back wages.