German football’s governing body (DFL), which presides over Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, is in talks with Deutsche Bank AG to facilitate the sale of 20% of their media rights, valued at $18 billion, to private equity investors, people close to the deal told Sportico. A spokesperson from Deutsche Bank declined to comment.
After DFL’s General Assembly meeting earlier this month, CEO Donata Hopfen told journalists that the internal preparations for the sale of the rights are complete and they are starting the formal process.
According to people close to the deal, approximately ten private equity firms—including Advent, Blackstone, CVC, EQT and KKR—approached DFL in September, before the formal sale process had started.
Aside from the broadcast rights sales, DFL is considering other funding options such as strategic investment ideas and loans. The Bundesliga is currently negotiating a four-year, $4.9 billion domestic media deal with Sky and DAZN.
Last year Bundesliga clubs pulled out of a similar proposed deal to sell a 25% stake in the league’s international broadcast rights to private equity firms KKR, Bridgepoint and CVC. The DFL’s international broadcast rights are valued at $2 billion, and the proposed sale would have brought the league $600 million in last year’s dollars.
According to Global Football Rankings, the Bundesliga is the second-strongest soccer league in the world after the English Premier League. Most clubs in Germany are owned by the fans and the ticket prices stay low: a standing room season ticket for perennial champion Bayern Munich costs 160 euros ($159), an average of €9.40 ($9.35) a game. The league averages 40,000 spectators per match, though it experienced severe losses during the pandemic. Both divisions have reported a 95% decline in ticket sales compared to the 2019-2020 season and lost $1.1 billion in revenue in 2021.
Deutsche Bank is no stranger to German soccer. The bank has a multiyear agreement with Frankfurt’s soccer team, Eintracht Frankfurt, one of the founding members of Bundesliga. In 2020 parties agreed on seven-year title sponsorships of Frankfurt’s stadium since named Deutsche Bank Park. The bank will commercialize the stadium until 2027 with an option to extend.
Bundesliga is not the only European league that turned to private equity to lift itself from pandemic-related losses. Last year LaLiga agreed to sell an 8% stake of its media company LaLiga Boost for $2.7 billion to CVC Capital Partners. In March, the Belgium-based private equity firm bought 13% of the French soccer league Ligue1 for $1.6 billion. Italy’s Serie A pulled out of a similar deal with CVC in 2021.