Sunday, November 1, 2009

Introducing Benedito (4) : The affair too much (2)

Earlier this month, Catalan businessman Agustí Benedito announced his intention to take part in next year's elections for president of FC Barcelona. This blog will this week give an introduction on the pre-candidate.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday 18 February 2009, Barcelona president Joan Laporta talked about his involvement in an attempt to sell Spanish footbal club Mallorca, which was revealed one day earlier by Spanish newspaper El Mundo:

"It's a professional matter. The company Binipuntiró, the main shareholder of Real Mallorca, has financial problems and they contacted my office to help them with the sale. We looked around and found a client who was interested and who made an offer on the condition of an audit of the entity.

It became clear that what the seller asked for the shares was a price that, according to our client, wasn't correct, so the deal didn't go through. Since this was a professional assignment, it's normal that my office receives a fee for the legal services that were provided.

Our law firm always examines if the cases we are offered don't interfere with my function as president of FC Barcelona but in this case it was decided that there was no incompatibility at all, so the conduct of my office was lawful, legal and professional.

The way the report was published suggests that my firm has tried to hide its involvement but there are legal and public documents about this since the seller had insolvency problems. We haven't tried to hide anything. But some state media are particularly fond of me.

I just try to do my job and I don't care about others trying to prevent me from doing that. I want to make a living out of my job, in an honest and responsible way, which is what I did in this case."

Two weeks later, Laporta repeated his defense in an interview with Spanish business paper Expansión: "Being the president of Barça, gives you a lot of possibilities to mix with people but not to do business.

But where's the line? In my case, I have a law firm and I assist companies, like Mallorca, that had financial problems and asked me to look for a buyer. I found one in Uzbekistan but the operation didn't go through."

Despite the explanations of Laporta, the involvement of Laporta was the reason that led Agustí Benedito to resign as member of the club's social commission on Thursday 26 February.

In a letter to the president, quoted by former Barcelona's head of communication Jordi Badia on his blog, Benedito explained the reasons for his decision: "This news has been the biggest disappointment in my life. Over the years, I have maintained my beliefs and they now prevent me from continuing with you. Despite the fact that this wasn't easy, I have been loyal until the end."

Speaking to Spanish news agency EFE, Benedito said: "What has happened is against the spirit with which 'El Elefant Blau' was founded (read more here). I belonged to the core of this movement that fought for a different Barça.

I've always stood by the side of Joan Laporta, even at the time of the vote of no confidence last summer, and I've defended him with everything I had. But now I feel that this attempt of trying to obtain a fee for the sale of Mallorca has nothing to do with the Laporta from a few years ago."

EFE claimed that Benedito had been close to be appointed as director of the club around the time of his exit but that the appointment didn't went through in the end. Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo had already reported in September 2008 that Benedito was rumoured to be a candidate to join the board soon.

Club sources were quoted by EFE as saying that they thought this had been the main reason for his decision, something that Benedito denied to the agency and in an interview with Catalan newspaper Avuí one week later:

"Everybody who knows me, knows that this is ridiculous. This just indicates they have no arguments to defend what cannot be defended. I've voluntarily worked for the club for many years.

I know that I have been rumoured to become a director, several board members told me they wanted me to join, but the president never spoke about it with me. And I thank him for not having made me a director because this would otherwise have been an even more difficult situation for me.

I have resigned because I think that the president of Barça has mislead the club members when he said last summer that he and no one from his board did business in the world of football.

And by doing that he didn't only betray a leading principle of the 'Elefant Blau' but also of our way of acting for many years. In my view, it's not ethical for a president to enrich himself in such a way. It's clear he betrayed those principles and that he lied. That's why I resign."

this is the fourth part of a five-parts series. the next part will be the video in which benedito presents himself as presidential candidate. you can read the whole series here.

Read the previous parts of this series:
Introducing Benedito (1): The candidate
Introducing Benedito (2): The man, the culé
Introducing Benedito (3) : The affair too much

picture: germán rodríguez rosas

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