Marseille’s American owner vows buying spree

Marseille (AFP) – Marseille’s American billionaire owner Frank McCourt says he intends to invest heavily in new talent to restore the glory days of the once-dominant French giants.

Marseille stumped up a club-record 30 million euros ($32m, £25m) to lure French international Dimitri Payet back from Premier League West Ham during the winter transfer window, when they also signed veteran Patrice Evra on a free from Juventus.

But McCourt indicated that more heavy spending was on the way at Marseille after he snapped the club up for a reported 45 million euros in October.

“First of all, the best thing anyone can do to improve the fan experience is to win,” he told reporters. “This improves everybody’s mentality, everyone’s approach, everybody’s attitude.

“So the fact that the club is playing better, that there’s more talent, that there is more passion, better results and so forth, this improves the fan experience.”

Marseille slumped to their worst finish in Ligue 1 in 15 years last season but appear to have turned the corner following McCourt’s arrival and the appointment of former Lille and Roma manager Rudi Garcia on a three-year contract at the imposing Stade Velodrome.

McCourt also named former Spain and Barcelona goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta as sporting director and businessman Jacques-Henri Eyraud as club president.

Eyraud said that the club had laid the foundations for future success with the purchase of Payet, among others, during the winter transfer window but the real action would come later.

“Our main objective is the summer transfer market,” Eyraud said.

“It will give us the opportunity to complete our strengthening of the team ahead of our first full season in control of the club.”

Boston-born tycoon McCourt, 63, who made his fortune building up a commercial real estate conglomerate, purchased Marseille after eight turbulent years in charge of the LA Dodgers.

He financed the $430 million purchase of the baseball franchise with a leveraged buyout, loading debt onto the club while using commercial properties in Boston as collateral.

To help service the debts from the purchase, revenue streams were aggressively ramped up with hikes on annual tickets and subscriptions, angering long-time fans. 

During his eight-year reign, the Dodgers reached the playoffs four times but never progressed past the second round. The period ended in controversy with the sale of the franchise after it filed for bankruptcy protection.

McCourt reassured Marseille fans that he had no plans to hike revenue streams and increase ticket prices at the Stade Velodrome.

“The strategy is rather to inject enough capital to buy talent, while also providing capital to build up our coaching facilities,” he said.

“Excellence on the field brings with it more fans, more sponsors and bigger TV revenues.”

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