Private Equity Eyes France for Latest Bet in European Sport

Advent International is considering buying a stake in a new media rights company being set up by France’s elite soccer league, home to stars such as Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.

Kylian Mbappé of Paris Saint-Germain takes a corner kick during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig at Parc des Princes in Paris on Oct. 19.
By David Hellier and Irene García Pérez
November 10, 2021 | 02:10 PM

Bloomberg — Advent International is considering buying a stake in a new media rights company being set up by France’s elite soccer league, home to stars such as Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe, according to people familiar with the matter.

The private equity firm is one of a number of investors interested in responding to Ligue de Football Professionnel’s search for a financial partner, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information.

Deliberations are in the early stages and there’s no certainty Advent will decide to pursue an investment, they said. Representatives for Advent and LFP declined to comment.

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The LFP presented the project to clubs this week, one person said. Discussions will be held until mid-January, after which the league’s members will decide whether to seek a potential investment of about 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion), the person said.

In March, France’s National Assembly voted in favor of a bill to allow professional sports leagues to create a commercial entity and sell a stake to external investors. The bill -- aimed mostly at soccer and rugby -- stipulates that leagues will need to control at least 80% of voting and economic rights in any entity. The French Senate still needs to rubber stamp the plans.

Other soccer leagues in Europe have already sought to take such steps, with Advent and CVC Capital Partners at the heart of a similar deal involving Italy’s Serie A. In Spain, CVC is investing more than 2 billion euros in La Liga through a new company managing broadcast revenue.

The moves come as European soccer seeks to repair its finances after Covid-19 shutdowns and suspensions wiped an estimated 9 billion euros off club revenues. As many as 100 of Europe’s pandemic-hit teams could move to access a new multibillion-euro loan fund being set up by UEFA, Bloomberg News reported Friday.

French soccer’s finances were further rocked in December after the collapse of a roughly 800 million euros-a-season broadcasting contract with Mediapro. The Spanish broadcaster has since been replaced by Amazon.com Inc., which is only paying a fraction of the price to show matches.