Buyout Giant CVC Eyes Soccer Deals From Germany to France
(Bloomberg) -- European buyout giant CVC Capital Partners is considering soccer investments in Germany, France and Italy, according to people familiar with the matter, as sports businesses feel increasing strain from the coronavirus pandemic.
CVC has offered financial support to German national soccer league DFL, whose matches feature teams like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, according to the people. It has suggested buying a stake in a commercial arm of the sporting body or providing debt financing, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.
The Bundesliga organizer is working with an adviser to consider funding alternatives amid interest from investment firms including Apollo Global Management Inc. and KKR & Co., Bloomberg News reported last month. The DFL has been exploring backup financing sources as a precautionary measure while negotiating with Comcast Corp.’s Sky over broadcasting payments, the people said.
“We’ve received many proposals in the last weeks that sound good in theory but that do not reflect the reality of the football business,” a spokeswoman for the DFL said. “Therefore, none of these deals will happen with the Bundesliga.”
Pursuing a deal with Bundesliga echoes the talks that CVC is holding with Italy’s top soccer league. A representative for CVC declined to comment. A spokesman for Sky said the company is in touch with the DFL and will make an announcement on financial arrangements once details of the sport’s restart are fully known.
CVC is also examining the potential purchase of a stake in French soccer team AS Monaco, which is controlled by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, the people said. Rybolovlev bought a majority stake in Monaco in 2011 and turned the club into one of Europe’s highest spenders in Europe.
A representative for the Rybolovlev family office said it isn’t holding talks to sell a stake in Monaco, while a representative for the team couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Monaco secured the French Ligue 1 championship in 2017, though the sale of key players like Kylian Mbappe and Bernardo Silva and a spate of manager changes have led to a reversal in the club’s recent fortunes. Monaco narrowly avoided relegation from Ligue 1 in 2018-2019 and were ninth prior to the current campaign’s cancellation because of coronavirus. This means the club will miss out on lucrative Champions League football next season.
While there’s no certainty the deals will come to fruition, the deliberations show how CVC is attempting to build on a history of successful sports investments. The firm, which manages about $82 billion, previously controlled the organizer of Formula One auto racing.
CVC sold Formula One to billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp. for $4.4 billion in 2016. It also owns a minority stake in the U.K. Premiership Rugby league.
CVC is separately considering buying a minority stake in Italy’s top soccer league, home to star players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, people with knowledge of the matter said earlier this week. It is in talks to spend about 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) for as much as a 20% stake in Serie A, the people said.
Major soccer is on hold across Europe because of the Covid-19 crisis, putting revenue pressures on clubs and league operators that had roughly a third of their 2019-2020 seasons left to run.
The German and Italian leagues intend to complete their seasons with the remaining games to be played behind closed doors, meaning teams will miss out on revenue from tickets, corporate hospitality and match day spending. Broadcast revenues could return at potentially discounted levels. On Wednesday, German Chancellor gave a roadmap for relaxing the country’s lockdown measures, saying that professional soccer games could restart in the second half of May.
There are 36 professional Bundesliga clubs that generated more than 4 billion euros in revenue in the 2018-2019 season, up more than 5% from the previous year, according to DFL. France has canceled the remainder of its Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.