Basketball clubs Cedevita and Olimpija announce merger


The merger was presented on Tuesday by Petrol Olimpija president Tomaž Berločnik, the chairman of the Slovenian energy company Petrol, and Cedevita Zagreb president Emil Tedeschi, the head of the Croatian multinational Atlantic Grupa.

Berločnik said it would be a Slovenian club featuring "the best Slovenian players", which would play in the national championship and become a top-level centre for the development of young players.

Based in Stožice Arena, the new club will "bring together the best available Slovenian players who will be willing to participate in the project," he added.

Tedeschi said it was a pioneer project in Europe, as it was the first time that two professional clubs from two countries would merge. He added that Cedevita had wanted to join forces with a club with tradition, knowledge and ambition.

According to him, it is not an entry of Cedevita into Olimpija, but the creation of a new club, which wants to become the best not only in the region, but in the entire Europe.

"We've been thinking about the idea about the merger for a few months. It did not come to our minds because Petrol Olimpija has lost its spot in the ABA League, but because of the desire to bring back quality basketball to Ljubljana," Berločnik said.

Answering media questions, he said he himself did not have all the answers, as legal experts needed to give their opinions, adding that more would be known by the end of July, when the assemblies of both clubs are to decide on the merger.

Berločnik thinks that this is a mere formality as all Slovenian sponsors agreed with the proposal.

The coaching staff and the player line-up are also expected to be known by the end of July as talks are under way. Petrol Olimpija will talk with the current players in the coming weeks to inform them who the team will count on in the future.

It has been reported unofficially by the Croatian media that the club will be coached by Croatian Slaven Rimac, and that a majority of the Croatian members of Cedevita are to move to Ljubljana.

Under the rules of the Slovenian Basketball Association, a team which wants to play in the national championship and cup, must have at least eight Slovenian players on the roster. The club will thus be looking to attract as many Slovenian players as possible.

According to reliable sources, these include national team mainstays Gašper Vidmar, Edo Murić, Jaka Blažič and Klemen Prepelič, among others.

According to the media, Cedevita wants to move its basketball project to Ljubljana due to a lack of support from the local community, while the investment in the new club by Atlantic Grupa, the owner of Cedevita, is reported to stand at EUR 2.5 million.

Tedeschi said that Cedevita was not buying Olimpija, adding that it was a joint project intended to sport enthusiasts in both countries. He used the phrase "merger of the equals" several times during the press conference.

"The statements I hear in Croatia that this is a national treason are ridiculous. It is true that Croatian has lost its best basketball club in the last decade, but you need to know that sport is business and that we do this for the sake of people."

He admitted that the Zagreb club was also thinking about moving to London, Vienna or Trieste.

Tedeschi and Berločnik announced that Cedevita Olimpija will play in the next season in the regional ABA League and the FIBA Europe Cup. This exempts the club from playing in the first phase of the national championship.

The budget of the new club will be higher than that of the two clubs combined, which unofficially this year stands at EUR 1.5 million for Petrol Olimpija and EUR 2.5 million for Cedevita.

Cedevita Olimpija already has a new logo, a letter C with a dragon, a symbol of Ljubljana. The new jerseys will be designed in the coming months, most probably featuring a combination of green (Olimpija) and orange (Cedevita).