Italian football at war over €1.6bn private equity deal

A group of elite Italian football clubs has demanded the resignation of the president of the country’s top league over his handling of a radical €1.6bn deal to bring outside investors into one of the world’s best-known competitions.

Paolo Dal Pino has been instrumental in directing a proposed transaction to sell 10 per cent of a new company that will manage Serie A’s broadcasting and commercial rights to a consortium including private equity groups CVC Capital Partners and Advent International and Italian investment group Fondo FSI. 

The call for his resignation signals the level of opposition to the deal among elite Italian teams, which are concerned about losing control of the contest. Several club executives said there was no longer enough support for it to pass.

According to correspondence seen by the Financial Times, seven clubs including Juventus, Inter Milan, Napoli, Lazio, Atalanta, Fiorentina and Hellas Verona wrote to the Serie A president this week demanding his resignation.

The letter from the clubs states that the group had made “previous objections to your conduct as president of the Lega Serie A” and that Dal Pino’s actions had “led to the need to represent to you our irrevocable no confidence with regards to your role, conduct and management as president of the League”.

Dal Pino, who is also chief executive of telecoms group Telit Communications, has led the negotiations with the investment consortium over selling a stake in a new company that would manage Serie A’s broadcasting rights, international trademark and commercial development.

The deal would be the first of its kind in European football, offering the opportunity to buy into one of the top competitions in the world’s favourite sport. Germany’s Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga have all begun exploring similar auctions.

However CVC and Advent’s latest offer lapsed in early February and the private equity groups have not been actively working on the deal since then, one person close to the process said.

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People with knowledge of their views said private equity groups had hoped to secure agreement on the stake sale after the Serie A clubs had approved a hotly debated €2.5bn media rights sale to sports streaming service DAZN last month.

An executive at one of Serie A’s top clubs said that Dal Pino had mismanaged the stake sale, saying the decision appeared to be driven primarily by the financial problems caused by the pandemic rather than the long-term interests of the sport.

Serie A, Juventus and Inter Milan declined to comment. CVC and Advent did not immediately comment. 

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