(Bloomberg) -- Germany’s top professional football clubs voted in favor of a potential TV rights sale, a deal that could help narrow the gap with the UK’s Premier League and mark the entry of private equity into the league.
German football is one of the last holdouts to foreign investment, with its clubs protected from full takeovers, and smaller clubs repeatably rebuffing previous attempts to agree on private equity investment.
At least 24 teams in the DFL football league voted on Monday to continue exploring a potential deal with private equity firms, Bloomberg reported. The DFL Deutsche Fussball Liga GmbH later confirmed in a statement it will be negotiating a deal “in the coming months.”
Bloomberg first reported in November that German football’s governing body was starting a third attempt to raise external capital. DFL abandoned an earlier process to attract private equity investment after opposition from fans and teams.
Private equity firms have been betting on media rights business of major sporting leagues, driven in part by owners looking to cash in on rising valuations of teams, and a perception among investors, following the pandemic, that live sports remain a hit with viewers.
The Premier League last week sold four years of UK broadcast rights for £6.7 billion ($8.4 billion), mostly to its biggest existing partners Sky Sports and TNT Sports, in a deal that cements its position as Europe’s most lucrative sports franchise.
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The latest push to raise capital in Germany has already met with opposition from fan groups at several clubs. Fortuna Dusseldorf is understood to have voted against the deal, led by opposition from its fans.
Buyout firms including Blackstone Inc., EQT AB and CVC Capital Partners are submitting bids for a minority stake in a vehicle that holds broadcasting rights for Germany’s top football leagues, people familiar with the matter said last month.
Advent International also is interested in a stake, the people said at the time. DFL Deutsche Fussball Liga GmbH is seeking bids of up to €1 billion ($1.1 billion) for a stake of as much as 8%, according to a document seen by Bloomberg News.
CVC has agreed to similar media deals with Ligue 1 in France and La Liga in Spain.
Bidders — and their investors — have to come from Western nations, according to the document, meaning cash-rich investors from the Middle East or China would be excluded.
DFL also reserves the right to exclude suitors that have a stake of more than 10% in a rival league, the document shows. CVC was among the suitors in a previous bidding process that was halted in May. Bidders are also bound to commit to an eight-year minimum holding period, the document says.
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(Additional context throughout, updated fourth paragraph.)
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