A Friday press conference will announce that Bundesliga 2 club MSV Duisburg have entered a strategic partnership with an American company, the Capelli Group, through the 2022 season. The Capelli Group will invest approximately 10 million euros in the club in exchange for 5.1 percent of the limited partnership on shares of MSV Duisburg GmbH & Co. KG. The American company will also have an option to purchase an additional five percent of shares. The Capelli Group investment will help finance the construction of a new youth training center at the Westender Straße. According to WAZ, Kay Mourheg, European head of Capelli group, should get a seat on the boards of the MSV in the coming year, but club members decide who sits on MSV’s Board of Directors.
This isn’t the first investment in the footballing world made by the Capelli Group, headed by Lebanese-American George Altirs. In 2013, Altirs bought the majority shares in the Wilmington Hammerheads, an American USLPRO third-division club located in North Carolina. The Hammerheads, founded in 1996, are affiliated with the MLS’ New York City FC.
Before that purchase, Altirs was very involved in youth soccer in the United States, He found the New Jersey Cedars three years ago, a youth club that is a U.S. Development U-14 club, and he has invested in field and lighting upgrades for St. Benedict’s Prep, a New Jersey school that has produces such American internationals as Tab Ramos, Claudio Reyna and Gregg Berhalter. (Reyna played for both Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg, while Berhalter played for 1860 Munich and Energie Cottbus). Altirs grew up in Lebanon playing soccer before moving to the U.S. in the 1980s. He founded Capelli New York with his brother in the late 1980s and currently the firm does over $250 million in sales annually
Why MSV Duisburg? Capelli Group has its European headquarters in nearby Ratingen, Germany. Altirs’ wife Liz, a Lebanese-German, grew up in Germany and has designed kit for youth teams while the six Altirs’ sons speak German. Additionally, Altirs is a huge fan of the game, and feels that MSV Duisburg is “a strong brand who fits us perfectly.” The club does have a long history and strong fan base despite recent problems, and currently sit at the bottom of Bundesliga 2, with only two wins in eighteen 2015/2016 league matches.
MSV Managing Director Bernd Maas stated that
We have Capelli and the minds behind in New York visited and may make us personally an overview of the company’s products. Everything we have seen and experienced, has confirmed the good feeling that Capelli is a fitting partner in every respect for the MSV,
MSV Duisburg were one of the original 16 Bundesliga clubs when the league was founded in 1963. Then known as Meidericher SV, the club changed its name to MSV Duisburg in 1967. The greatest moment of glory for MSV in recent years was their appearance in the DFB Pokal final in the Spring of 2011, although they lost to Schalke. Since then, financial problems caused the club to be demoted to the 3rd division while bankruptcy has been a constant threat for MSV, who reported debt of three million euros at the beginning of this season. Still, that amount of debt is a big improvement on the 20 million dollar debt that the club carried only a few seasons back and the seven million euro figure reported last year.
With their home kit consisting of blue and white striped shirts, they are known as the Zebras and have been a yo-yo club. MSV Duisburg were most recently in the first division for the 2007/2008 season before being demoted. The Zebras spent five seasons in Bundesliga 2 before being demoted to Germany’s 3.Liga for the 2013/2014 season and won promotion back to Bundesliga 2 last Spring. Companies under the Capelli umbrella manufacture soccer kit, and it appears that the American company will succeed Uhlsport as the Zebra’s shirt manufacturer following the end of their contract in 2018. Capelli currently provides the kit for the Wilmington club.