Soccer-Italy’s Serie A picks CVC-led group for exclusive talks on media unit-sources

By Elvira Pollina and Elisa Anzolin

MILAN, Oct 13 (Reuters)Italy’s Serie A soccer clubs have agreed to enter exclusive talks with a private equity fund consortium led by CVC for the sale of a stake in the league’s media business, two sources close to the matter said on Tuesday.

CVC which has a track record in sports investment, teamed up with Advent and Italian state-backed fund FSI, defeating a rival bid from a consortium led by Bain Capital.

As a preferred bidder, CVC’s consortium, which offered up to 1.6 billion euros ($1.9 billion) to buy a 10% stake in Serie A’s newly created media unit, will be granted a four-week exclusive negotiating period, the sources said.

Fifteen of the 20 clubs voted in favour of CVC’s bid, while Napoli, Lazio, Atalanta, Udinese and Verona abstained.

Under a plan promoted by Serie A’s president Paolo Dal Pino, dubbed ‘Project Goal’, the entrance of private investors would help the Italian soccer league to develop its vital broadcast business.

A deal would inject fresh resources into club coffers, helping Serie A to weather the negative impact of the pandemic, as revenue plummet due to closed-door matches to stem the spread of the coronavirus, while broadcasters are seeking rebates and want to cut spending on Pay-TV deals.

Many clubs presidents, including Andrea Agnelli from champions JuventusJUVE.MI, see the project as a way to improve governance, as private equity investors would have a decisive role in steering the league’s media business strategy.

After investing for over a decade in Formula One motor racing, CVC bought a minority stake in England’s Premiership Rugby in 2019 and backed sports investment company Bruin Sports Capital.

($1 = 0.8516 euros)

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina and Elisa Anzolin, additional reporting by Clara Denina and Pamela Barbaglia, editing by Giulia Segreti and Keith Weir)

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