An Analysis of Jean-Claude Blanc’s Tenure

Posted on 14/10/2010

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By: agiamba | Juventus.theoffside

Calciopoli was a tumultuous time, to say the least. In addition to the relegation, the players departing, the massive hit we took financially, the entire Board of Directors (CdA in Italian) and triade resigned their positions. Juve’s stock price plummeted, and we wondered how we might recover to be the great squad we’ve been in the past. In stepped a new triade- Giovanni Cobolli Gigli, as President, Frenchman Jean-Claude Blanc as CEO, and Alessio Secco as Sporting Director.
Juventus - Presentazione del nuovo allenatore Claudio Ranieri -
They came from rather diverse backgrounds: Cobolli Gigli was a businessman who spent much of his career working for various companies in the FIAT Empire. Jean-Claude Blanc’s background is in management of various sporting events like the Tour de France, and perhaps most notably the Roland Garros tournament in France. Alessio Secco, as much as we may dislike him, comes from a diehard Juventus background. Born and raised in Torino, he is the son of Sergio Secco, long-time Juventus accountant and right-hand man of Juventus President Boniperti for many years. He joined Juve at age 29 as a press secretary, then team manager, than understudy to Moggi before being promoted in the wake of Calciopoli. It seemed like a good mix, a businessman, a sports businessman, and someone who lived Juventus his entire life.
While most say it ended in total disaster, I won’t go that far. They do deserve credit for bringing Juventus from Serie B, to a team challenging for the top 4 in Serie A, but clearly lacked the experience to take us a step above. Secco of course was canned by Andrea Agnelli, and Gigli resigned a year earlier to be replaced by Jean-Claude Blanc as President of the club. To do an analysis, we must first define what their roles are in the team. The ultimate head of the team is the President, who both works with the financial issues, the stockholders, as well as transfers and on-the-pitch matters. The General Manager/CEO and Sporting Director both respond to the President, and ultimately, the fate of the team rests in his hand. The GM/CEO position is largely financial- it includes marketing, revenue, sponsorships, costs, etc. The Sporting Director is pretty much exclusively dedicated to footballing matters, making transfers, contract negotiations, etc. In the wake of Gigli’s resignation, Jean-Claude Blanc took over the President responsibilities as well, which many questioned if he was taking on too much work.

Blanc’s beard is an attempt to go incognito…

With Pavel Nedved and Giuseppe Marotta joining the CdA, along with two Torino natives, there was a discussion this morning in Tuttosport about the management of the club. Jean-Claude Blanc, notably, remains the highest paid manager at the club. By the time his contract expires in 2012, he will have earned €12 million in compensation, so €2million per season. Last year, while wearing two hats as President and GM/CEO, he earned €2.7 million which is fairly steep. There are also details that if we sacked him, we would owe about €3 million in golden parachute payments, which is perhaps part of the reason why Agnelli canned Secco but not Blanc.
If we separate Jean-Claude Blanc’s tenures, it becomes clear how he has done. From 2006-2009, he was exclusively involved as a GM/CEO, and did brilliantly. The Swiss Ramble’s article on Juve’s finances prove that he has done wonderfully to build Juventus up financially, while investing into the new stadium. Each mercato, Secco had a significant amount of money ( €30-45million) to spend, without the Old Lady going into any kind of real debt. Cash flow has been excellent, the TV revenues are high, and the marketing/sponsorship deals have been excellent. In the last week, we signed agreements with Sony and MSC Crociere which will certainly help our balance sheet. Overall, he has signed fewer sponsors, but involved them more heavily than some of our rivals. He successfully sold our new stadium naming rights, as well as getting a solid deal on Betclic as our new shirt sponsors.
It’s well known that JCB has done an excellent job revitalizing the team financially, and in that case, his salary/bonuses are certainly worth it. It reminds me of the outcry over Wall Street exec’s compensation- if they tanked the stock and posted losses, then yes, the criticism is warranted. Many, however, have certainly delivered in profits or market capitalization, thus earning their massive pay. It is worth paying top dollar for top management, and when it comes to our balance sheet, Jean-Claude Blanc has done a stupendous job and deserves credit.
The negatives are largely his decision to become President in 2009, where he oversaw Juve’s worst ever season. Ultimately, the club rests on the President’s shoulders, and he was not up to the task. Andrea Agnelli stepped into those shoes in May 2010, and quickly made all of the changes that Blanc should have done long ago. Andrea Agnelli hired a competent Sporting Director to replace Alessio Secco, who after 11 years on the Juve payroll was let go. He immediately went about resolving our injury crisis, by having Vinovo inspected and fixed (the drainage system) and letting the entire medical staff go, some who had been at Juve for 15+ years.
All of these were problems that had manifested themselves for sometime before- Our injuries were high in 07-08 and 08-09 as well, and Secco failed miserably especially when it came to rebuilding the defense. The addition of Roberto Bettega to the team was a smart one, but a clear sign that JCB had no idea what was going on, and needed a calcio man to sort things out. It was a good move, but obviously one that would not bear fruit immediately, particularly when the other administrative problems (medical team, Vinovo, Secco) were still around. Ferrara paid for it, as by late January the Bettega effect had failed to inspire the team. Then came the sacking of Ferrara.
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Two calcio-savvy men that will let Blanc return to what he does best…
Firing Ferrara was the ultimate proof he didn’t know what he was doing. A supporter of JCB might suggest canning Ferrara was necessary to try and kick the team in the pants, but as I said at the time, and Zaccheroni’s brief tenure proved, the team’s problems went FAR beyond the coach. Ferrara took the fall because at that point, Blanc and Secco simply had no other ideas on how to kickstart the team. Blanc should be fired Secco before January, but their sole move in the winter mercato was pitiful and even more evidence to can Alessio. All of these problems existed for some time, Blanc was not new to the organization. In this case, he failed.
With the introduction of Andrea Agnelli as President, Blanc took a direct demotion, and did so without complaining. With a healthy balance sheet, excellent sponsorships, and a great investment in the stadium, Blanc has done well and deserves his pay, especially now that he has been removed as President. His contract expires in 2012, and it remains to be seen if it will be renewed, perhaps his work will be done with Juve on stable feet and the stadium finished. It all probably depends on Jean-Claude…having organized the Tour de France, Winter Olympics, and Roland Garros, will he move onto another project, or is he satisfied in Torino?
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Welcome back, member of the Board of Directors and Team Manager Pavel Nedved.
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