It is less than a year ago that Gloucester Rugby seemed to have settled their ownership issues as Martin St Quinton took a majority stake. Now rumours have rapidly gathered pace that Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad is prepared to invest. So much so that the club have had to issue a statement about another possible Gloucester Rugby takeover.
Who is Mohed Altrad?
A billionaire who built his empire from a small, struggling scaffolding business has come a long way from his beginnings in Syria. He is now the owner of Groupe Altrad that lends its name to Montpellier’s stadium. The main shareholder of the south France club has financed them back into the Champions Cup. They won the Challenge Cup last season and now challenge the best in the Top 14. He has business interests in England already so he is presumably well aware of Gloucester’s position within English Rugby.
Is this good news for Gloucester?
Investment almost came to Kingsholm last year via France, as covered by Last Word on Rugby. However this would be a big step-up and could potentially propel the Cherry and Whites back towards the top of the league. Altrad also seems to be a good fit with the culture of Gloucester and could be a long-term investor the club and fans would love to have.
On the other hand money is of course no guarantee of success. Gloucester may have had an extended period of underperformance but they do not have a poor squad. They have had a steady stream of internationals including All Blacks, like John Afoa and Lions like Richard Hibbard. Therefore a big injection of cash is unlikely to have the same transformation as it has at Wasps for example. Indeed bringing in a host of high-profile names could destabilise the squad David Humphreys and co. are trying to build.
It could herald the sort of long-term planning seen at Bristol, where Steve Lansdown has focused on off-field facilities. Gloucester already own their stadium and are regularly profitable. Whilst the club has been in the Challenge Cup it is the other revenues from stadium use that has supported profitability. If Altrad could provide the money to improve both on-field performance and off-field facilities, Gloucester could establish a very strong commercial base. Any talk of stadium redevelopment would eventually bring up the question of The Shed. Many longstanding supporters will not entertain the thought of alterations to their beloved terrace. There will eventually be a point that change is necessary and deep down fans understand this. Altrad or indeed any other new owner would do well to avoid such a confrontation early on.
According to French source La Depeche negotiations are in advanced stages. According to them there just needs to be a conflict of interests check, given that he owns a potential opponent of Gloucester. An announcement is set to be made in the next few days. As the saying often goes around Kingsholm: “the future’s bright, the future’s Cherry and White”.