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Sport

Serie A at a crossroads as funds bid for new media company

MILAN (Reuters) - Large private equity funds have teamed up to bid for a minority stake in a firm holding Serie A broadcasting rights, two sources familiar with the matter said, leaving Italy’s top soccer clubs at a crossroads regarding the future of their vital media business.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Pre Season Friendly - L'Aquila 1927 v Napoli - Stadio Teofilo Patini, Castel di Sangro, Italy - August 28, 2020 Napoli's Hirving Lozano in action, as fans are allowed into a stadium for the first time following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

Looking for ways to lift flagging revenues and weather the coronavirus crisis, Serie A has asked investors to submit bids to buy a stake of up to 15% in a newly-created media company that would control its broadcast rights.

However some clubs are anxious the new structure may reduce their influence over the media business.

Sources say private equity firms CVC Capital Partners, Advent International and Italy’s state-backed fund FSI tabled a joint offer ahead of a deadline that expired on Friday.

A consortium led by Bain Capital, which includes NB Renaissance, also submitted a bid, the sources say.

Both offers target a 10% stake in the new company to which Serie A would transfer its broadcasting rights for 10 seasons, a venture which private equity investors have valued at 13-15 billion euros.

More than half of Serie A revenues come from broadcasting rights, but it lags the financial heavyweights of England’s Premier League, La Liga in Spain and the German Bundesliga.

Serie A’s president Paolo Dal Pino sees the creation of a new media company as a way to boost revenue, especially abroad.

But some clubs, including Napoli and Lazio, are reluctant to support the project, as the governance structure of the new company would restrict their sway over the League’s media business.

Serie A’s representatives are expected to meet on Sept. 9 to vote on the setup of the media company and the participation in the venture of private equity funds. If that goes through, 14 out 20 clubs must then vote in favour of one of the private equity offers.

Reporting by Elvira Pollina, Claudia Cristoferi, editing by Gavin Jones and Alexandra Hudson

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