Posted by Editoress on 09/4/13
Quietly, back in late May, Gestev, the Canadian company that has produced two mountain bike world championships and hosted World Cups since 1991, was sold to media giant Quebecor.
This is, of course, of immense interest to the Canadian cycling community, since Gestev is one of the crown jewels of Canada's international presence in mountain biking.
At the Mont Ste Anne World Cup earlier this month, we had a chance to sit down with Chantal Lachance, who, along with Patrice Drouin, is a principal at Gestev.
Canadian Cyclist: There wasn't a big announcement about this sale of Gestev; I just heard from somebody, who heard from somebody, that Gestev was being sold to Quebecor. So first of all, when did it happen.
Chantal Lachance: It was in May, the end of May. But it took a long time, for discussions, it was almost a two year process for Patrice and myself.
CC: The big question is why?
CL: The company was at a point where it had lots of projects and good events, and ideas to produce more. But it's hard for a small company ... I'll give you an example, if you want to do a big music show [a concert], you have to upfront lots of money to do it, so we couldn't do it.
At some point we said 'so what do we do?' Do we stay where we are, or if we want to move a step up, and do some fantasy events that we want to do, then we need a financial partner. So, to start we were looking for a financial partner, someone to be on board with us. We didn't know the format, but we identified some people and a couple of companies that we thought we could have a fit with.
CC: So originally it was a partner, not a sale that you were looking for?
CL: Yes, we wanted a partner. And then we had some discussions here and there, and along the way, I mean Quebecor was one of the companies we had targeted, because of the nature of their company, it was a very good complement to what we are doing. We were already working with many of their subsidiaries, like Videotron, for many different projects. Our TV shows are on their stations, and we were buying advertising in their newspapers ... so we were already having a good foot in the company. So we thought they would be a good financial partner for us.
So then we started to discuss with them, and finally the best format was that we became an acquisition. So that's how it happened.
CC: So they now own Gestev, so how does that change things ...
CC: Yes ...
CL: I don't want to say that it doesn't change anything, because that's not true. But, Gestev remains Gestev ... they didn't buy us to change us. They really want us to keep our personality and what they want to do is to try and bring everything we do to another level. So all of our events will go one step up.
But, of course, now somebody owns us, so we have to produce reports ... there's all this paperwork! But to me, we are a couple of months into the deal and I have learned so much stuff every day, after 22 years of Gestev, it's like a new learning experience and a new way of working. It's just really good.
CC: So are there any immediate new projects that you are going to get involved in?
CL: At this point, there is no specific project I can talk to you about. Not because it's a secret thing, but because we are in reflection, we are thinking, we are discussing ... and Quebecor has just started a new division, that they are calling Sport and Entertainment, and they just hired a President, so he is also thinking about how the division is going to work, and what do we do with Gestev.
Also under this umbrella is the new amphitheatre of Quebec [City], and we will be inside there [with projects]. [Note: this is the new hockey arena] Of course, we will be trying to find projects and events to bring in there. Everything is possible, the sky is the limit. But we are not there at the moment.
CC: For us, one of the big questions is: What about cycling?
CL: Yes, cycling ... we are still there. I mean, mountain bike, we don't think about getting out - can you imagine that this year is 23 years [of international mountain biking at Mont Ste Anne by Gestev]? In two years it will be 25 years, my god, I realized that this week! So we will make something special then.
But, we did City 8 [a freeride event in downtown Quebec], and we want this to go higher, we love this event. And now we are waiting to see what happens with Eliminator, no Eliminator, and whatever happens with it, we want to be there.
CC: I know a few years ago you were exploring the idea of maybe Road World Championships...
CL: Yes, this is another story. Since Serge [Arsenault] decided to bring the WorldTour back [the Quebec and Montreal Grands Prix] ... when we started to explore the Road Worlds, he wasn't there, but when he brought back the WorldTour, we had a chat together and decided that he would go with it, and we would drop our interest in doing a road event. Not because we are not interested, but because there is somebody already taking care of that. But I wouldn't say that it's a no-go forever.
But mountain bike, we are in it forever. We aren't doing this for money, we are doing it because we love the sport. It's a difficult sport to finance with the sponsors ... it's tough. One discipline is Olympic, but the other is not. But we love cycling, and we want to try new events; we added the Gran Fondo this year, and we have a Fixie race, and we have two pump tracks, and we trying to do a lot around the World Cup.
We will keep doing it.
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