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

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MILAN (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 (1.46 billion pounds) 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 Juventus JUVE.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.

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