Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, reportedly have paid €300,000 to set up a ‘fake news’ website – namely El Diario Bernabeu – to promote the club’s brand image.
According to reports from AS, an ongoing investigation into money-laundering in Spain, “Operation Punica,” launched by the Central Operations Unit of Spain’s Guardia Civil Civil police, revealed this information.
Alejandro de Pedro is believed to be the main man behind the money laundering scandal, and Perez allegedly had exchanged texts with him.
The Madrid president, however, has denied taking money from De Pedro. He told the court, as cited by El Confidencial:
“That question annoys me a little. He wouldn’t have dared to ask me something like that. He never spoke to me about that.”
Perez did reveal how he met with De Pedro; he came into contact with De Pedro through Societe Generale’s head of corporate and investment banking, Donato Gonzalez.
He then paid De Pedro, an expert in online reputation management, a huge sum of €300,000 to set up the website – El Diario Bernabeu – whose foremost priority was to publish positive news regarding Real Madrid. The main intention was to improve the global fan base, especially on social media, and improve the club’s brand image.
The website played a huge role in pressuring former manager Carlo Ancelotti into giving more game time to Gareth Bale, who was then world-record signing for Los Blancos.
El Diario Bernabeu’s former director, Javi Iglesias, can be heard asking Ancelotti about his reluctance to use Bale in the starting line-up. The journalist did exactly that, as discussed by Perez and De Pedro via text message the night before.
Here is one sample of the text message that exchanges between De Pedro and Florentino Perez following the press conference:
De Pedro: “Pres, this morning the coach was asked like I told you.”
Perez: “Alright. Good”.
To read the full transcript of text messages, check here.
The website had a direct connection with Antonio Galeano, the head of communications at Madrid. They frequently informed him about their reporting on referring, and framed reports like “Real Madrid accustomed to playing with ten against Barca”.
Galeano replied: “Great work. Hug”. Moreover, he adds in his communication with Perez: “We have done two more, at the suggestion of Antonio [Galeano]”.
Madrid have severed all ties with the online website and focussed on their partnership with Microsoft. It has helped develop the club’s social media presence and an overall brand image.
The investigation is ongoing, and we may see more interesting evidence regarding Perez’s involvement in the scandal. Will it affect his presidency? Interesting few months ahead with time the only one with answers.