Private Equity Eyes German Soccer as League Mulls Media Deal

(Bloomberg) — Germany’s elite soccer body is attracting fresh private equity interest in its overseas media rights, as cash-hungry European leagues explore ways to unlock value from the world’s most popular sport.

a large stadium: A general view shows the empty stadium during the German first division Bundesliga football match Bayern Munich vs Werder Bremen in Munich, on November 21, 2020.

© Photographer: Lukas Barth/AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows the empty stadium during the German first division Bundesliga football match Bayern Munich vs Werder Bremen in Munich, on November 21, 2020.

Advent International and BC Partners are among suitors that have approached Germany’s DFL sporting organization about potentially acquiring a minority stake in Bundesliga International GmbH, which manages the rights for the nation’s top two divisions, people with knowledge of the matter said.


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DFL officials plan to discuss at a Dec. 7 meeting whether to pursue a sale process, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information. Other potential bidders could include Bain Capital, CVC Capital Partners, General Atlantic and KKR & Co. if DFL decides to invite proposals, one of the people said.

Deliberations are at an early stage, and there’s no certainty the private equity firms will make firm offers, the people said. Representatives for DFL, Advent, Bain, BC, CVC, General Atlantic and KKR declined to comment.

The Bundesliga is home to some of Europe’s biggest clubs including FC Bayern Munich, which won the prestigious Champions League competition in August. Its international broadcast rights, valued at 240 million euros ($285 million) annually by Deloitte, comfortably trail those of major leagues in the U.K. and Spain despite the global profile of Bundesliga players such as Robert Lewandowski and Erling Braut Haaland.

Brand Profile

A decision over whether to sell a stake in the DFL’s international unit is part of a broader discussion over how Germany’s professional clubs will distribute television money, which has been falling. The Bundesliga’s domestic rights were recently sold at a discount to the last cycle, and in September DFL lost a 200 million-euro deal with Middle Eastern broadcaster BeIN Sports.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to game suspensions and shut German stadiums, slashing revenue from game-day sales. DFL has been working with an adviser to consider financing options since the early days of the pandemic amid interest from buyout firms including KKR, Bloomberg News has reported.

DFL would use any new investment to help grow the profile of its brand around the world, one of the people said, joining other historic leagues looking to do the same. Italy’s Serie A agreed this month to sell 10% of a new media company to Advent and CVC for around 1.7 billion euros. Serie A boss Paolo Dal Pino said the the private equity investment would help reaffirm the league’s brand worldwide.

Vincent Labrune, president of French professional soccer’s governing body, suggested in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche this month that his league might also have to consider creating a subsidiary to manage its commercial rights.

With media payments in doubt across the sport, teams have been forced to tighten their belts when it comes to the transfer market. Clubs in Spain’s La Liga and the Bundesliga have been spending nearly 50% less than they’ve averaged over the past five years, according to Carteret Analytics Ltd.

(Adds detail on private equity investment in Serie A in 8th paragraph)

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