Suitors line up for Serie A broadcasting pie


Italy Serie A funding Image:

CVC Capital Partners, Bain Capital, Advent International and now London-based private equity firm Cinven, the list of potential suitors for Serie A broadcasting pie is getting longer by the day. Private equity firm Cinven has emerged as the latest name interested to invest in Italian soccer’s Serie A.

Serie A till March was in a period of exclusive negotiation with Luxembourg-headquartered CVC Capital Partners but once that ended – others have joined the race. As the race for Serie A pie is hotting up, the top Italian league is mulling to hire professional advisory company and begin a new bidding process.

A tentative offer has been made to Italy’s top flight soccer League Serie A also by US buyout fund Bain Capital as it seeks to trump a previous proposal by CVC Capital Partners. However, nothing has been confirmed on the Bain offer.

Sources said that Bain wants a slice of the broadcasting rights business pie which is connected to the Serie A league and has offered about 3 billion euros ($3.39 billion) for a stake of about 25 percent.

Media reports stated that CVC Capital Partners entered into exclusive talks with Serie A in March for a deal that would see the European private equity firm secure up to 20 percent of a new company which would manage Serie A’s broadcasting rights for 10 seasons.

Media reports also stated that CVC offered to invest up to 2.2 billion euros ($2.4bn) for a stake in the new company.

Talks between the league and CVC Capital Partners could lead to additional resources being available for stadium repurposing projects.

Also entering the fray is Boston (US)-based private equity firm, Advent International Corporation. Advent has made a bid to acquire a minority stake in the Italian top soccer league, Serie A, in a transaction that values the league at EUR 13bn (USD 14.6bn).

Serie A is a professional league competition for football clubs located at the top of the Italian football league system.

CVC Capital Partners is a private equity and investment advisory firm with approximately US$111 billion in secured commitments since inception across European and Asian private equity, credit and growth funds.

The offers comes in the wake of league clubs looking desperately for cash to tackle growing challenges to the broadcasting rights business since the coronavirus crisis has forced pay-TV companies to tighten their belts.

Bain’s offer has fueled a bidding war with rival private equity firm CVC which recently set its sights on Serie A’s media rights as well as with Advent.

The entry of Advent into the fray for the potential acquisition of a stake in the esteemed football league, home to football world giants Zlatan Ibrahimović and Cristiano Ronaldo, marks the third private equity firm interested in the league.

Over the past two decades, Italian Serie A has fallen few rungs down among the top European leagues, falling behind Premier League and La Liga.

Broadcasting rights alone see Italian teams earn €2 billion less than their English rivals. Coronavirus has further added to their woes.

Serie A decided to offload some of its stake in order to financially strengthen itself and fight the impact of the COVID-19 menace. According to
Gabriele Gravina, President of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), the pandemic has already cost Serie A US$526 million.

In the month of March-April, Serie A was also in talks with US-based Blackstone for a US$112 million short-term loan to help Serie A clubs steer through the extremely difficult times created by the pandemic.

The league is apparently at early stages of talks with CVC Capital Partners over acquisition of 20 percent of shares in the company managing the league.

A representative of Serie A said, “For confidentiality reasons we decline to comment on the matter.”

Should Serie A strike a deal, part of the additional resources would be dedicated to a new infrastructural fund. It would serve as form of aid for clubs wanting to invest in their infrastructure. With Italy’s aging stadia it would come as a piece of welcome news, even if serving primarily the purpose of increasing the league’s marketing value.

The fund could become a crucial form of support particularly to smaller clubs, where financing of a stadium project could be a difficult proposition.

In recent years, Italian legislation has changed in order to facilitate private stadium projects, though there are still many hurdles to go through. In terms of major stadium projects, the league is still behind European competitors, having already had poorer infrastructure at the beginning of the century.

Over the past decade only three clubs from present Serie A have managed to deliver major stadium redevelopment schemes: Juventus in 2011, Udinese in 2016 and SPAL in 2018. Currently, Atalanta Bergamesca is revamping their stadium, while AS Roma, Inter and AC Milan, Bologna FC, Cagliari and Fiorentina are among clubs waiting for their developments to move forward.

Matches in the Serie A league resumed recently after a more than three months long hiatus under strict safety rules in place and without any in-person attendance.

Serie A

Founded in 1946, the Serie A Championship is the premier football division in Italy and is one of the world’s elite football leagues.

Since Serie A’s inception, Ballon d’Or, the most prestigious individual football award, has been awarded 18 times to players of Serie A club players.

Its clubs have been among the finalists in 25 of the 55 Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League seasons played to date.

The Serie A Championship comprises 20 clubs playing 380 matches between them in each season spread over August to May in the next year.

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