British, US-Based Private Equity Funds Eyeing Double Potential ‘$2.2 bn’ Investment In Serie A

Private equity firms are eyeing Italy’s top soccer league Serie A for potential business amid Coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Financial Times, CVC Capital Partners and Blackstone
are both in separate negotiations over investments in Serie A.

CVC Capital Partners is reportedly negotiating to purchase a minority stake of around 20% of Serie A for $2.2 billion, valuing the entire league at about $10.8 billion.

Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore reports that CVC and Serie A are discussing a newco – or a minority share in ‘Lega Servizi’, a subsidiary company of Serie A – to purchase the league’s main asset, the lucrative broadcasting TV rights. 

Sky Italia and DAZN contract – who are currently the official broadcasters rightsholders – expires in 2021, while the move would give CVC “a role in selling pay-per-view television rights for 10 years”, the newspaper reports.

CVC Capital Partners is a British-based private equity and advisory firm, with previous experience in this kind of operations.

Besides managing about $82 billion of assets, the firm owned a majority of shares in the Formula One Group from 2005 to 2012, along with shares in MotoGP and England’s Premiership Rugby. 

The discussion has been underway for several months but could still fall apart due to a potential legal hurdle represented by the Italian legislation.

The Melandri Law prevents the sale of all broadcasting rights to a single company to avoid monopoly, although the rule applies to broadcast companies and does not prevent a third-party company to act as an intermediary.

On the other hand, US-based private equity, credit, and hedge fund Blackstone is separately considering lending $108.3 million to soccer clubs struggling to cover their costs amid Serie A suspension, enforced by the nationwide lockdown imposed by the Government on March 8.

Meanwhile, Italian soccer clubs are gearing up to resume Serie A 2019-20 season after two months of COVID-19 shut-down.

The FIGC—the Italian soccer federation—and the Government are still discussing a new draft of the medical protocol that aims at restarting the season.

The two parts still need to agree on what to do in case a player is tested positive after the fixtures are resumed.

The teams are keen on individually isolating the player, whereas the scientists advised a 2 weeks quarantine for the whole squad and staff is preferred in order to halt the contagion. 

To further complicate the matter, Serie A clubs Torino, Sampdoria, and Fiorentina announced that several players have tested positive for COVID-19 while performing the preliminary swab tests needed to return to training.

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