By Elvira Pollina
MILAN (Reuters) – JPMorgan Chase & Co has written to Italy’s top soccer league to express a preliminary interest in supporting the development of Serie A’s media business, three people close to the matter said.
Interest from the U.S. bank rivals that of several investment funds which have approached Serie A as the league prepares to hold a tender to sell its domestic and international broadcasting licences for the seasons after 2024.
The sources said the 20 clubs that comprise Serie A were informed of the interest by the U.S. bank at a closed-door meeting of their top executives on Thursday.
JPMorgan is expected to be able to provide between 700 million and 1 billion euros ($761 million-$1.1 billion) in bank financing, one of the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions are not public.
The person said the rights would be the collateral backing JPMorgan’s financing. JPMorgan and Serie A declined to comment.
Serie A has been looking at options to extract more money from its media rights, which account for roughly half the revenues of its clubs.
Like other European soccer leagues, Serie A lags England’s Premier League in terms of income and is looking at ways to revive its global appeal.
Back in 2021 JPMorgan had offered to support soccer clubs looking to launch a breakaway European Super League, a plan that collapsed due to a storm of protest from fans and politicians.
In exploring ways to boost revenues, Serie A clubs have been discussing the creation of a media unit, a move that could pave the way for external investors to take a slice of this key business.
After previous attempts by investment funds to reach a deal with Serie A over its media business failed, New York-based Searchlight Capital together with a group of funds led by Carlyle Group Inc expressed a preliminary interest in buying into Serie A’s broadcasting rights in late 2022.
The sources said Serie A clubs learnt on Thursday that Apollo Global Management had also come forward, without providing further details. Apollo declined to comment.
The clubs are expected to meet on Feb. 24 to discuss how to respond to the approaches by JPMorgan and the funds and they may decide to hire a financial adviser, the sources said.
Prior to that meeting, clubs are due to discuss in mid-February the sale process of the media rights, which is expected to start later this year.
Any decision requires approval by a qualified majority of clubs’ representatives, which has proven a hurdle in the past to reaching a deal with potential investors.
Interest for Serie A comes at a time when Italian soccer has been rocked by the troubles of its most successful club, Juventus FC, which is under investigation by prosecutors over its financial accounts and was docked 15 points by Italian soccer authorities last week. Juventus denies any wrongdoing.
($1 = 0.9202 euros)
(Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Additional reporting and writing by Valentina Za; Editing by Alvise Armellini, Diane Craft and Mark Potter)