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Barcelona rejects private equity investment in La Liga as Messi departs

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Barcelona has accused private equity firm CVC Capital Partners of underpaying to invest in Spanish football, rejecting its €2.7bn deal with the country’s premier league the day after the club announced Lionel Messi was leaving.

Joan Laporta, who was elected president of Barcelona in March, said on Friday that the club was ready to fight against the deal between La Liga and CVC. He added that the only way to keep Messi would have been to accept the deal but that this would not be in Barcelona’s best interests.

He also revealed that the club was expecting losses to have soared to almost €500m in the past season, more than double the forecast figure.

The CVC deal values La Liga at more than €24bn but still needs to be approved by clubs. It proposes creating a new entity — which would be minority owned by CVC — to manage broadcast, sponsorship and digital rights for the league.

It also includes a revenue-sharing component that would give CVC more than 10 per cent of La Liga’s annual broadcasting rights.

Real Madrid has already come out against it.

Javier Tebas, the president of La Liga, said in a tweet to Laporta as he was taking questions from the media on Friday that the deal would increase the value of broadcast rights for all clubs, allowing them to borrow against that revenue, an increasingly common practice in European football.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta said the club was ready to fight against the CVC-La Liga deal © Albert Gea/Reuters

Laporta hit back, calling the deal “inferior” and accusing CVC of offering a third of the value that Barcelona ascribes to La Liga. He also warned that Barcelona “can defend” itself, as clubs prepare to vote on the deal.

Opposition from Spain’s two biggest clubs means CVC will have to choose between sweetening the deal to win them over, attempting to push it through without their backing or walking away. CVC would not need unanimous backing from clubs, but if it pushed a deal through without the support of the biggest, managing the investment could be difficult in the longer term.

Barcelona and Real Madrid are two of Europe’s most successful football teams but find themselves at odds with their own league over the best strategy to recover from the financial damage inflicted by the pandemic. Both clubs took active part in alternative plans for a breakaway European Super League.

CVC has been trying to break into Europe’s top football leagues for more than a year. It came close to a €1.6bn agreement with Italy’s Serie A but the deal was scuppered after top clubs including Juventus and Inter Milan, blocked it.

Germany’s top football clubs also voted to walk away from talks with private equity firms over the sale of a stake in the Bundesliga’s international media rights.

Additional reporting by Daniel Dombey in Madrid

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