Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim takes control of Oviedo

JOSEPH WILSON Associated Press Published:

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim has agreed to invest €2 million ($2.5 million) in third-tier Spanish club Real Oviedo, which had been facing bankruptcy before a massive fund-raising effort by fans.

Oviedo narrowly staved off financial extinction after supporters -- in Spain and abroad thanks to an effective Twitter campaign -- bought more than €1.5 million ($1.9 million) in new shares in the club over the past two weeks.

The club said on Saturday that Slim decided to become the new majority shareholder because of Oviedo's "history in Spanish professional football and above all for the extraordinary support of its fans."

According to Forbes magazine, Slim is the world's richest person with a net worth of $69 billion. Slim made his fortune in the telecommunications industry.

"This challenge and ambition is strictly a sports investment and one that looks to benefit the club and its fans," the club said regarding Slim's plans. "(The investment) will try to support Oviedo's players so they can reach their goals and the club can reach the division that corresponds to its history and values."

Oviedo, whose 38th and last season in the topflight was in 2001, said Slim plans to use the club "to create synergies and exchanges between Spanish, Mexican and Latin American football."

In September, Slim bought 30-percent stakes in two Mexican football teams, Pachuca and Leon. He also bankrolls Formula One driver Sergio Perez, currently with Sauber and set to move to McLaren next season.

Arturo Elias Ayub, director of strategic alliances of Slim's Carso and Telmex groups, said that before the upswell in fan support to save the club they had not been interested in investing.

"We have been following the movement (to save) Oviedo, which I would say has been global, and we thought it would be interesting to join in," he told Spanish sports daily AS.

Elias said caretaker president Toni Fidalgo would remain in charge for the short term. He did not specify if Slim would invest more money in the club.

"It's a good day, a very good day," Oviedo spokesman David Alonso told The Associated Press, adding that fans are still buying up shares of the club at the low price of €10.75 ($13.74). The share offering is set to end on Saturday. Shares cost €60 ($77) at its initial offering 20 years ago.

Oviedo has a fan base of 20,000 supporters and a stadium that can seat 30,500 spectators, putting it on par with many first-division clubs.