Italy’s top-flight soccer league Serie A on Thursday agreed to sell a stake in its media business to a private equity consortium for 1.7 billion euros as it seeks to prop up revenues hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a meeting in Rome, the league’s 20 clubs unanimously accepted the offer by CVC Capital Partners, Advent International and state-backed Italian fund FSI for a 10% stake in a new unit handling the league’s broadcast rights.
Serie A Chairman Paolo Dal Pino told reporters the deal was expected to close in the coming weeks.
“We have found an agreement and unanimously voted in favour of the financial terms of the proposal, but we haven’t closed the deal yet, we haven’t committed yet,” he said.
Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters some tax and legal aspects needed further checks. The sources said that a further vote was required to give the final go-ahead to the deal.
The deal will bring outside investors into one of the game’s biggest leagues, whose revenue has plummeted during the pandemic with matches being played in empty stadiums and broadcasters cutting spending on pay-TV deals.
Home to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus, Serie A has said the virus emergency will cost 600 million euros in reduced revenues this year, nearly a quarter of annual turnover.
Weighed down by a combined debt burden of 4.3 billion euros, many clubs’ finances are under strain with wage expenditure having topped a critical threshold of 70% of revenue in recent years.
Serie A lags other major European leagues with revenues of 2.5 billion euros a year, according to consulting firm Deloitte, of which 1.35 billion comes from broadcasting rights.
England’s Premier League receives 3.5 billion euros a year from media rights alone.
Serie A has said the arrival of private equity investors would improve governance at its media business and help expansion abroad.
The consortium will have a final say over the choice of the media unit’s CEO while Serie A would have a one-seat majority on the board of the newly-created entity, sources have said.
CVC, which has a track record in sports investment, teamed up with Advent and FSI to up the ante after Serie A snubbed an initial 1.1 billion euro bid in June for up to a 15% stake in the media unit.
The private equity consortium will split its investment into four tranches with a first 300 million euro payment at closing, a document seen by Reuters showed previously.
Advent were not immediately available for comment. FSI and CVC declined to comment.
Photo – EPA-EFE/CLAUDIO PERI