Private equity funds approach Italy's Serie A to explore media rights deal -sources

FILE PHOTO: A logo of Italy's Lega Serie A is seen in Milan, Italy, December 17, 2019. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

MILAN (Reuters) -Apax Partners, Three Hills Capital Partners, Carlyle Group and Searchlight Capital have approached Serie A expressing interest in investing in the media business of Italy's top flight soccer league, three sources close to the matter said on Wednesday.

The approach by the four private equity firms comes after Serie A last year failed to reach a media rights deal worth 1.7 billion euros ($1.7 billion) with a group of funds led by CVC Capital Partners due to opposition from some of its clubs, including Juventus and Lazio.

Serie A, Apax and Carlyle declined to comment. Three Hills and Searchlight did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other European national soccer leagues such as Spain's La Liga and France's Ligue 1 have clinched deals to sell part of their media business to private equity firms to sustain investments after the pandemic hit revenues.

The sources, who declined to be named because talks are confidential, said representatives for Apax, Carlyle and Three Hills met with Serie A top executives earlier this week.

One of the sources said the three funds, which are working with Italian law firm Zoppini, could present a joint preliminary proposal in the next few days.

Searchlight representatives held a separate meeting with Serie A chiefs, the sources said, adding the fund is also considering submitting a formal expression of interest.

The funds' interest was briefly discussed at a closed-door meeting the 20 Serie A clubs held in Milan on Wednesday, the sources said, adding Serie A would share with the clubs any proposal from the private equity investors.

The clubs on Wednesday also resumed discussions over how to create a separate unit for their media and broadcasting business, which could pave the way for partnerships, two of the sources said.

($1 = 1.0276 euros)

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina in MilanEditing by Valentina Za and Matthew Lewis)

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