Know your oligarch: Querétaro’s “Angel Investors” are going to want return on their investment

Like all clubs in modest-sized Mexican cities, Querétaro has endured some serious ups and downs in the top flight. Since the 1950s, the city’s had some club or another — under names like the Atletas Campesinos, the Gallos Blancos, and the Cobras. They’ve even gamed the franchise system and plucked first division teams from both Tampico and Chiapas (when their own club got relegated). The city’s most recent incarnation recently snagged Camilo Sanvezzo from Major League Soccer and signed Ronaldinho. The club still failed to make the playoffs.

More curiously, the last owner got tossed in jail, but an “Angel Investor” group bought them. But do angels really exist?

A short recap: In 2013, Querétaro saw its team relegated, but, hey, no worries, Grupo Delfines, primarily owned by local businessman Amado Yáñez, bought and relocated a franchise from Chiapas. Alas, problems arose when Yáñez got tossed in jail and is now being prosecuted for a teeny tiny $400 million fraud involving Citibank and Banamex. However, I’m not going to air out his dirty laundry for a simple reason: he no longer owns Querétaro FC. His shady ownership cast a large cloud over everything, the club entered administration, and he was forced to sell it.

But to who? And, perhaps more importantly, for what motives? That, my friends, is the multi-million dollar question.

The official name of the investors who bought Querétaro FC is Grupo Imagen Multimedia. It’s basically a media business that has lots of radio programs around the country. But wait – Group Imagen is actually part of a larger holding company named Business Angels Group. One of the key proprietors of the Angels is Olegario Vázquez Aldir. Confusingly, some reports said that another investor alongside Grupo Imagen is Héctor Pérez Rojano, and still others say Business Angels Group owns 100 percent of the shares. Club Querétaro’s website doesn’t spill the beans – the official press releases skip from the seizure of the club by SAE to the purchase of Chiapas to the signing of Ronaldinho. (And that’s ignoring the confusing early reports that a local construction magnate Miguel Ángel Sanchez had bought the team . . . and lied).

So who are these “angels”? What kind of angels are they? Sword-wielding seraphim? Ox-faced cherubim? And can there really be angels doing business? In Mexico? And why did they want a heavily indebted club? Luckily, the Business Angels Group has a website. According to the website, it all started in 1986 when Olegario Vázquez bought a hospital. Then, in 1998, the BAG (snicker) officially formed. Since then, it’s bought some more hospitals, small banks and insurance companies, Grupo Imagen, and quite a few hotel chains. Unfortunately, though, many of the links for its website result in 403 errors. Who else is involved in this privately-held company? And what do hotels, hospitals, banks, radio stations, and a futbol club have in common?

The only two names that come up regularly are father and son Olegario Vázquez Raña (president) and Olegario Vázquez Adir (general director). Both are squeaky clean, especially by Mexican businessman standards. However, the wide variety of business holdings by Grupo Imagen looks more like a Mitt Romney-ran hedge fund than a group of winged angels. The only possible thing that hospitals, hotels, and radio stations can have in common is one thing: they can be run for a profit.

Yes, the Grupo Imagen brought in Ronaldinho and made grandiose promises of glory. What new owner doesn’t? Still, when sponsorships and gate revenue and TV money don’t add up, don’t be surprised if the Group of Business Angels turns into a vulture fund and promptly sells the club to a bigger city. “If” Queretaro drops back into the relegation zone, expect to see more devilish behavior than what’s currently on tap.

In a sense, the ownership of Club America by a wealthy family, Chivas by a wealthy businessman, and Cruz Azul by a cement company looks much more healthy than an “Angel Investors” hedge fund-esque business entity swooping in and buying a distressed club. You may disagree with the Azarragas’ politics, but you know they’re in it for the long-term.

As for Grupo Imagen, err Business Angels, only time will tell. Don’t hold your breath.

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