Soccer-Serie A's media business gets private equity interest from Carlyle, others - sources

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - Monza v Juventus - Stadio Brianteo, Monza, Italy - September 18, 2022 Juventus players and fans react after the match REUTERS/Alberto Lingria/File Photo

MILAN (Reuters) -Private equity firms including Carlyle Group and Apax Partners have expressed interest in investing in the media business of Italy's top flight Serie A soccer league, two sources familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Other European national soccer leagues such as Spain's LaLiga and France's Ligue 1 have clinched deals to sell part of their media business to private equity funds to sustain investments after the pandemic hit clubs' finances hard.

Germany's Bundesliga is also considering whether to follow suit.

New York-based Searchlight Capital as well as a group of funds led by Carlyle comprising Apax and Three Hills Capital have expressed a preliminary interest in partnering with Serie A, the sources said, citing two separate letters sent to the league which did not contain valuations of the media business.

Serie A has shared the contents of the letters with clubs but no meeting has yet been called to discuss them, the sources said.

A copy of the Carlyle-led group's letter seen by Reuters said the consortium would pay cash for a stake of less than 10% in a new media company holding Serie A's broadcasting rights.

The funds, which have dubbed their consortium 'Love for Football', would pay at the closing of the deal a significant part of the price to Serie A clubs and the league itself, with the rest due over the following three years.

The 'Love for Football' consortium said in the letter that their offer would value Serie A's media company above that of Spain's LaLiga or France's Ligue 1 by applying a higher multiple to core profit.

Serie A, Carlyle, Apax, Three Hills and Searchlight all declined to comment.

Serie A last year failed to finalise a 1.7 billion euro ($1.7 billion) deal to sell a 10% stake in its media business to a consortium of funds led by CVC Capital Partners due to internal infighting and staunch opposition from some of the clubs, including Napoli and Lazio.

Carlyle, Apax and Three Hills held a meeting with Italy's top flight soccer league chiefs last week as the three private equity firms were considering a joint proposal, sources had previously told Reuters.

The Italian league also held a meeting with Searchlight representatives, who expressed interest in a potential deal as well, the sources added.

Private equity investors have approached Serie A as it prepares to tender its broadcasting rights, possibly in January.

Clubs have resumed discussions over the idea of creating a separate unit for their media and broadcasting business, which could pave the way for partnerships.

However, clubs and league officials told Reuters the 20 Serie A teams are still divided over the potential involvement of private equity investors in their key media business.

($1 = 1.0203 euros)

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina, editing by Gianluca Semeraro and Ken Ferris)

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