J. League’s Nagoya Grampus and as Roma Formed Alliance Deep Reason for Chairman Toyoda’s Decision to Move Ahead Quickly | FRIDAY DIGITAL

J. League’s Nagoya Grampus and as Roma Formed Alliance Deep Reason for Chairman Toyoda’s Decision to Move Ahead Quickly

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On January 26, Toyota Motor Corporation announced a change in president. Tsuneji Sato (left) took office. Akio Toyoda, who will be promoted to chairman, was all smiles (Photo: Afro)

The J-League, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, will open on January 17, and J1 Nagoya Grampus (hereafter J1 Nagoya), which has participated in the league since its inception in 1993, signed a strong partnership last year with AS Roma, the famous Italian Serie A club where Hidetoshi Nakata once played. AS Roma was founded in 1927 and is one of the big European clubs. AS Roma is one of the biggest clubs in Europe, founded in 1927. It is extremely unusual for a J club to form a business partnership with a powerful European club, but in April and January, the two clubs signed an agreement to become the main sponsor of AS Roma. It is highly unusual for a J club to enter into a business tie-up with a powerful European club, but it was a “chairman’s project” initiated by Akio Toyoda, who will become chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation on April 1 after handing over the presidency of the company to Tsuneji Sato.

Akio was the one who made the move, and the tie-up proceeded at once,” a source close to the Toyota Group revealed.

Why did Toyota, the parent company of J1 Nagoya, move to form a business alliance with AS Roma?

In European soccer, salaries of major players are skyrocketing, while most clubs are struggling with huge financial problems. AS Roma, which once paid 3.3 billion yen, the highest transfer fee ever paid by a Japanese at the time, to acquire Hidetoshi Nakata, a midfielder who played a key role in Japan’s national team, is no exception to this rule.

The previous regime acquired AS Roma for 110 million euros (about 13.4 billion yen) in the spring of 2011. However, the company subsequently fell into severe financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 crisis. In August 2020, the Friedkin Group of the United States, which had been negotiating the acquisition of AS Roma, acquired 86.6% of the club’s shares for 591 million euros (approximately 74 billion yen at that time) and became the new owner. Since then, AS Roma has changed to a structure led by Friedkin Group Chairman Dan and his son Ryan and others.

The Friedkin Group is based in Texas, U.S.A., and has exclusive Toyota sales rights in five western states, and has established Gulf States Toyota Distributors, which sells Toyota vehicles in the Middle East. In other words, Chairman Dunn and Chairman Toyoda have had business ties for some time. A J-League official revealed, “Akio Toyoda, 66, is the chairman of the J-League.

A source close to the J-League revealed, “Akio Toyoda, the 66-year-old chairman (current president), sees 58-year-old Chairman Dunn as a younger brother, and they started talking about having a friendly match in Japan since they both own soccer clubs.

A friendly match was held last November to commemorate the business tie-up, but the steps leading up to the conclusion of the agreement proceeded step by step. In May last year, Moeka Minami, a Japan national women’s team defender who had been playing for the Urawa Reds Ladies of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, transferred completely to the AS Roma women’s team. 3 months later, in August, a sponsorship contract was signed, and full support was extended for a third year. The total cost is approximately 2 million euros (about 280 million) with an option to extend for a third year. It also includes clauses on the provision of electric vehicles such as the “Lexus” and general mobility services.

Furthermore, the business alliance signed in November includes not only financial support as seen in the sponsorship agreement, but also includes content that is designed to promote the development of both clubs. The agreement has four pillars: (1) the implementation of friendly matches, including the strengthening of the top team; (2) collaboration in the development of the youth academy; (3) business development; and (4) social support activities, with the aim of the two clubs working together for the future.

While the direction in which the two clubs will move as soccer clubs was clearly stated in this way, Toyota has been “close” to Rome in other ways for several years.

Toyota also delivered a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (Toyota Mirai) to the Pope in 2020 as a specially manufactured audience vehicle. This is not the first time that Rome and Toyota have been linked, but the business partnership has strengthened the ties. We welcome it with open arms.

Mourinho (left), known as a world-class leader, with AS Roma players. The word “TOYOTA” is on the chest of their training uniforms (Photo: Getty Images)

Born in 1965, Chairman Dunn is one of the richest men in the U.S. In 2017, at the young age of 52, he took over the management of the Friedkin Group from his father Thomas, with total assets of $4.1 billion (¥433 billion). Although there were initially concerns in Italy that an American owner would be “booed” by the appointment of an American to the long-established AS Roma club, Dunn succeeded last year in bringing in world-class coach Mourinho at an annual salary of 8 million euros (about 1.1 billion yen) until June 2024. However, Dan succeeded in inviting Mourinho, one of the world’s top managers, for 8 million euros until June 2024. He won the hearts of Roma supporters, who are known for being one of the most extreme in European soccer.

Although the club has been ranked in the top half of the league this season, and the supporters’ criticism of Dunn is not strong, the aging of the Olimpico, the club’s home ground, which was completed in 1953, the year after the club was founded and has a capacity of 76,634, has been a long-standing concern. The Friedkin Group is the only company that has been able to acquire the building.

The Friedkin Group also has plans for a major urban renovation centered on AS Roma’s home ground. There is a sense of anticipation here that Rome will be transformed by Toyota’s involvement, so this business partnership is very welcome to the people living in Rome.

For Toyota, which has a close relationship with the Friedkin Group, if the conditions are not too bad to get involved in the city renovation project, it could open up new business opportunities.

Toyota, the owner of J1 club Nagoya, has sponsored the Toyota Cup, the world’s top soccer club competition, for 25 years since 1980, and in 1988, when the club was still an amateur before the launch of the J-League, Toyota was even able to acquire former Japanese national team coach Zico. Thirty years ago, the first year the J-League was established, the club acquired England’s top scorer at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, Lineker, for a salary of 300 million yen, the highest in the J-League at the time.

Toyota has a strong impression that it has been supporting the soccer world with ample funds, but this is a “sustainable” business partnership with AS Roma on an equal footing and with an awareness of mutual development. Beyond that, however, Toyota is also looking ahead to new business opportunities that will lead to its core business.

Moeka Minami (right), a member of AS Roma’s women’s team and a member of Japan’s national women’s team. The team won the Italian Women’s Super Cup for the first time last November (Photo: AFLO)

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