Gerry Thornley: The incredible rise of Mohed Altrad and Montpellier

Born into a shepherds’ tribe in Syria the billionaire turned around once struggling club

Montpellier  president Mohed Altrad with  head coach Vern Cotter. Photograph: Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images

Montpellier president Mohed Altrad with head coach Vern Cotter. Photograph: Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images

When Montpellier won the European Challenge Cup in 2016, the most significant trophy of their relatively short existence, by beating Harlequins in the final in Lyon, their owner Mohed Altrad was so emotional that he was virtually in tears. This was very significant too.

Altrad had reputedly never seen a game of rugby before taking over the then financially troubled club in 2011 and like most billionaires he is neither given to public displays of emotion nor shy about getting what he wants. It is not only emotionally that Altrad has invested in the club. Montpellier are no longer financially troubled. Au contraire.

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