FOOTBALL LEAKS. LOSC: When Gerard Lopez and Marc Ingla dreamed of building the biggest player agency in the world

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This was before the buyout of LOSC. When Gerard Lopez was still looking for a gateway into the football business. In the summer of 2012, the Hispano-Luxembourger businessman, then boss of the Lotus team in Formula 1, announces in the Financial Times that he is ready to invest 500 million euros in "companies that support and offer services to clubs and buy clubs to make them profitable".

This project is also that of its associates Mangrove Capital Partners, The American Mark Tluszcz and the German Hans-Jürgen Schmitz. The trio became famous in the 2000s by successfully investing in Start-ups of the "new economy", like Skype, famous software of Internet telephony. In football, they start by creating MPI (Mangrove Player Investments), a Luxembourg fund dedicated to the acquisition of "economic rights" of players. With Mediacités and Mediapart, we had leaned two years ago on this structure that had bought percentages on Brazilians still minors in order to pocket the jackpot during future transfers. This is then known as the TPO or third property, a prohibited practice that will be banned by FIFA in May 2015.

Another structure was created in February 2013, still in Luxembourg. This time it is a player agency baptized Kick Partners. New documents from Football Leaks – these millions of confidential data collected by the German magazine Der Spiegel and analyzed with its partners Mediapart and the EIC (European Investigative Collaborations) – have allowed Mediacities and France 3 Hauts-de-France to learn more about its projects, activities and employees, among which Stéphane Courbis, the son of the famous coach Rolland Courbis.

Goal: 500 players, 5 to 10% of the world market

End 2013, Mangrove's football activities are grouped together within a new entity, Mangrove Founders. Gerard Lopez holds 37.5%, his partner Hans-Jürgen Schmitz 25% and the rest belongs to Fedalk Investing, a offshore domiciled in the British Virgin Islands.

The accounts of Mangrove Founders for the year 2016 show that Kick Partners is an affiliated company, which it finances.

Excerpts from the 2016 Mangrove Founders accounts showing Kick Partners among the affiliates. / © Luxembourg Trade and Companies Register
Excerpts from the 2016 Mangrove Founders accounts showing Kick Partners among the affiliates. / © Luxembourg Trade and Companies Register

The two mainstays of Kick Partners are Spanish Marc Ingla, former head of FC Barcelona and future director general of LOSC, and the Lebanese agent Rawad Kassis, which, among other things, dealt with the interests of Ghanaian international Asamoah Gyan.

In a PowerPoint prepared on the occasion of a meet with potential partners in Paris in November 2013, the company has huge ambitions: "We want to become the first football agency in the world in terms of number and quality of players, in terms of revenue, being the agency that brings together the best agents for a global vocation, and in terms of visibility and power in the market. soccer".

In this document, we also learn that Kick Partners plans to consolidate 20 local subsidiaries covering the main countries of football, represent more than 500 players and to arrogate in the long run 5 to 10% of a global market 500 million euros, "net commissions of 50 to 100 million euros".

In this presentation, Kick Partners plans to earn 50 to 100 million euros in commissions. / © EIC
In this presentation, Kick Partners plans to earn 50 to 100 million euros in commissions. / © EIC

The organization of Kick Partners is detailed in this same PowerPoint document. of the negotiations are under way with several partner agents in Europe (Great Britain, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Holland, Turkey, Luxembourg), Brazil, Asia (Japan, Korea), Australia, the Middle East (United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia , West Africa) and in West Africa. The establishment on the Russian, Ukrainian, Portuguese and Belgian markets is presented as a priority for the years 2013-2014.

The global ambitions of Kick Partners summarized in one table. / © EIC
The global ambitions of Kick Partners summarized in one table. / © EIC

Finally, there is an explanation of the name of Kick Partners in this PowerPoint document: "The opportunity is BIG – we will kick ass!" Translation : "The opportunity is GREAT – We will kick ass!All accompanied by photos of four of the world's biggest agents – Jorge Mendes, Mino Raiola, Kia Joorabchian and Pini Zahavi – to whom Ingla and others are visibly promising to tap into some market share.

Kick Partners aims to compete with agents like Jorge Mendes, Mino Raiola, Kia Joorabchian and Pini Zahavi, promising to "kick asses". / © EIC
Kick Partners aims to compete with agents like Jorge Mendes, Mino Raiola, Kia Joorabchian and Pini Zahavi, promising to "kick asses". / © EIC

Thorsten Wirth, leader of the German player representation agency Spielerrat, attended the presentation of Kick Partners in Paris. December 6, he tells the meeting to his associates Daniel Delonga and Hannes Winzer : "The project: it is an investment fund that weighs approximately 500 million euros and seeks to become, in the next two years, the leading agency worldwide. They see football as a business and already invest in clubs, training centers, transfer rights and players. The Lotus Formula 1 team belongs to them (…). They build a network of agencies in Brazil, Argentina, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and precisely in Germany. Project partners become shareholders of Kick Partners"

The German is in love. He is so excited by his meeting with Lebanese agent Rawad Kassis that he goes so far as to compare him to Facebook's CEO: "He is 32 years old and has a past in finance. He worked as an agent for a long time and made several important deals. At the moment, he is doing business with the fund. (…) He does not want to chat unnecessarily – he wants to do business and he does it by staying focused on his goal. A bit like Zuckerberg – a visionary, but also hard as a rock when needed".

Stéphane Courbis as a partner

In France, Kick Partners relies on Stéphane Courbis, the son of the famous coach turned radio consultant, Rolland Courbis. He is a prominent agent who works or has worked with talented players such as Robert Pires, Emmanuel Adebayor, Laurent Koscielny or Steve Mandanda.

Another Powerpoint document, drawn up during a meeting between Kick Partners' partners, on 4 and 5 March 2014 in Barcelona, ​​detailse business plan for France over the first five years. The objective is to to control 74 players of the Hexagon after five years of existence.

Kick Partners plans to realize € 4.19 million gross of sales in the first year, for a profit of 1.38 million euros gross. In the fifth year, the turnover in France must reach 12.23 million euros, for a profit of 7.40 million.

Marc Ingla, linchpin of Kick Partners. / © MaxPPP
Marc Ingla, linchpin of Kick Partners. / © MaxPPP

In Germany, Marc Ingla wants to rely on agents of society Spielerrat. With 84 players represented, Kick Partners aims for the German market, a turnover of 14.24 million euros gross for 9.41 million euros annual profit after 5 years.

"Control a club"Is also part of the Kick Partners strategy in the region," said Marc Ingla in an email to Thorsten Wirth, Daniel Delonga and Hannes Winzer of Spiellerat, on January 31, 2014: "I am always interested in a minority stake in a club in Germany".

On March 12, 2014, a meeting of partners is organized in Barcelona. Thorsten Wirth entrusts Marc Ingla and Rawad Kassis with his hopes and fears about the Kick Partners project: "I personally believe in the approach of a strong transnational network with like-minded partners. I think synergies will come from the diversity of the group. Nevertheless, I think that the level of professionalism and dedication to the project is very different according to the stakeholders ".

Marc Ingla agrees: "The foundations of the partnership and the associated overall structure still need to be well analyzed and detailed, but we believe the model exists and is a winning model (…) Regarding the level of professionalism, I also agree that all the agents of the Barcelona meeting will probably not continue to collaborate with KP".

Aurier and Fabianski

Collaborative projects are still emerging between agents federated by Kick Partners: "We met yesterday with Rawad (Kassis, Editor's note) and Stéphane (Courbis), in Munich, and we will work together on the cases of Aurier and Fabianski "continues Thorsten Wirth.

Stéphane Courbis counts among his colts the Ivorian defender Serge Aurier, former resident of RC Lens who played at the time in Toulouse, while the Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, substitute at Arsenal, is part of the stable Spielerrat. With the agreement of the Germans, Courbis will try to fit Fabianski in a French club (Marseille and Monaco are targeted), while Spielerrat will offer Aurier to the Germans. Bayer Leverkusen and of Wolfsburg.

Serge Aurier (left), in the jersey of Toulouse in 2014. / © MaxPPP
Serge Aurier (left), in the jersey of Toulouse in 2014. / © MaxPPP

In an email, Rawad Kassis details the distribution of commissions in the case of a transfer of the Ivorian in Germany : "70% for Kick Partners and 30% for Spielerrat on the commission linked to the salary of the player, 50% for Kick Partners and 50% for Spielerrat on the commission received from Toulouse FC on the transferFor Lukasz Fabianski, soon to be at the end of the contract at Arsenal, Daniel Delonga proposes to give Kick Partners 50% of the commission collected at the time of signing the player in a French club.

Finally, neither Leverkusen nor Wolfsburg will enlist Aurier, and no French club wants to bring in the Polish porter …

Conflicts of interest in Brazil

The Brazilian part of the Kick Partners project particularly attracted our attention. In Brazil, the company plans a turnover of 2.81 million gross euros in 2014, for 640 000 euros profit. Target in 4 years: the turnover should rise to 12.74 million euros, for 6.65 million profit. For the agency, this is a particularly attractive market and for good reason: "Investments in third-party economic rights are very extensive and protected by local sports law", states a PowerPoint presentation document dated March 2014.

As a reminder, in January 2017, the Mediacités, Mediapart and France 3 Hauts-de-France survey revealed that MPI, the Mangrove Founders subsidiary dedicated to the acquisition of players, had invested in the economic rights of at least two minor players in Brazil: she bought 22.5% of the rights of Gerson Santos da Silva (then reduced to 12.5%) and 30% of those ofAlisson Farias. We find these two Brazilians among the players selected by the agency Kick Partners.

Gerson Santos de Silva (left) in 2015. / © MaxPPP
Gerson Santos de Silva (left) in 2015. / © MaxPPP

During the transfer window of January 2015, while the young Gerson is tipped to join Europe, Rawad Kassis intervenes on CNN to talk about the player, whom he presents as his colt: "Nothing is stopped until now, we are still in discussion. (…) It belongs to a fund called Mangrove".

The name of Douglas, another 17-year-old Fluminense club hopeful at the time, also appears in Kick Partners' portfolio of players. Mangrove also has economic rights to this player. This is confirmed by an email dated April 28, 2016, in which Raed Kassis, Rawad's brother, also a Kick Partners network agent, will propose the young midfielder to AS Monaco's vice president Vadim Vasilyev : "Please find below the players we would like to propose to AS Monaco FC (…) Douglas Augusto: a central midfielder that our fund has invested in its economic rights. He is named for the Brazilian National Under-20 Team".

In a tweet of May 22, 2016, Mark Tluszcz, the Mangrove Executive Director, will also present Douglas as "our player".

Third-party players at Mangrove Founders, represented by agents Kick Partners, also related to Mangrove Founders? The conflict of interest is not far, since the agency may be tempted to favor the immediate profits of Mangrove, to the detriment of the career of young Brazilians.

This Powerpoint presentation confirms that this is the strategy of Kick Partners in Brazil: "Invest in economic rights and player representation to control the player at the time of sale".

On December 16, 2014, Gerard Lopez mentioned the agency in an interview with the newspaper La Voz de Galiciaas he seeks to redeem the Club Deportivo Lugo, in the second division of Spain. "We have a large player agency and it can increase the possibility of taking young players"A fund to buy economic rights of players (MPI), an agency to guide their career and take commissions (Kick Partners) and a club for transit … all links in the chain were almost together.

But six days later, a FIFA Circular sounds the end of the third ownership (TPO). Its prohibition will come into force on 1st May 2015. Agreements made before this date may be executed until the contractually agreed dates, with the exception of those made between January 1 and April 30, 2015, which must be executed within a maximum of one year. The activities of the MPI Fund are therefore condemned.

Marc Ingla in Luchin in June 2018. / © MaxPPP
Marc Ingla in Luchin in June 2018. / © MaxPPP

In autumn 2015, the death of Rawad Kassis, one of the thinking heads of the project, will also put a stop to the ambitions of Kick Partners. In January 2017, Marc Ingla, the other host of the Kick Partners network, will accompany Gerard Lopez in his recovery of LOSC. "Kick Partners is no longer active"will then declare the Spanish-Luxembourg businessman, questioned about a possible conflict of interest."The only activity of Marc Ingla will be the management of LOSC Lille as Managing Director".

Kick Partners no longer exists today. She was placed in voluntary liquidation then canceled on June 28, 2018. The MPI fund, it still exists. He has not yet cashed all the economic rights he had acquired on players before the ban on TPO. His accounts for the year 2017, published on February 11, announced that "lsale, by the Company, of the economic rights of a player in 2018 will provide a product of 121,000 euros".

Asked about Kick Partners, Gerard Lopez and Marc Ingla did not wish to answer, "the vast majority of the requested items constituting contractual and confidential information which are not intended to be made public or by (we) nor by the other partiesMark Tluszcz, Hans-Jürgen Schmitz, Stéphane Courbis, Thorsten Wirth, Daniel Delonga, Hannes Winzer and Raed Kassis also did not follow up.

See you on Friday for new Football Leaks revelations related to a Hauts-de-France club.

After a first season in 2016, fifteen European newspapers grouped together in the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) media network, including Mediapart in France, revealed in November 2018 the second season of Football Leaks, the biggest leap in the history of football. journalism. More than 70 million documents obtained by Der Spiegel, or 3.4 terabytes of data, were analyzed for eight months by nearly 80 journalists, graphic designers and computer scientists. Corruption, fraud, doping, transfers, agents, tax evasion, exploitation of minors, purchase of matches, political influence: Football Leaks document in a new way the black face of football.

As for the first season of Football Leaks, Mediapart and the EIC have chosen to share the documents with France 3 Hauts-de-France and Mediacités. We also collected unpublished documents and testimonials that are not included in Football Leaks.

The whistleblower Rui Pinto, the main source of Football Leaks, was arrested mid-January in Hungary and fights to avoid extradition to Portugal, his country, which suspects him of data theft and "attempted extortion (Read his interview here). Two months before his arrest, Rui Pinto had begun to collaborate with the National Public Prosecutor's Office (PNF), to whom he handed over 12 million computer files from Football Leaks. The PNF launched on 19 February a European judicial cooperation procedure to share these documents, at a meeting of Eurojust that brought together nine countries.