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As Spain’s top soccer league struggles financially, Goldman Sachs sets its eyes on investing

August 12, 2021, 6:06 PM UTC

With Spain’s top soccer clubs battling to raise much-needed new financing, one clear winner is already emerging: Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The U.S. lender will lead a 1 billion-euro ($1.2 billion) syndicated credit facility to fund CVC Capital Partners’ investment in Spain’s top soccer league. The deal shortly follows a Goldman Sachs-led private placement for FC Barcelona, one of the most storied clubs in La Liga and an opponent of the CVC plan because of concern about the loss of broadcasting money.

The pandemic has brought European soccer clubs to their knees, hit by a sudden drop in revenues while still paying players hefty salaries. Barcelona shocked the sports world last week when its most-famous player, Lionel Messi, left the Catalan club because it could no longer keep him financially.

The parlous state of soccer finances, meanwhile, is offering investment banks the opportunity to earn fees by bringing in new investors to plug an urgent hole. Goldman Sachs’s involvement follows a failed attempt to sell a stake in Italy’s top league—for which the bank had lined up financing—and JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s ill-fated backing of the breakaway European Super League.

Goldman Sachs has been working for months to find new lenders for Barcelona. Next week, it will close the private placement of 525 million euros of notes that are already priced, according to people familiar with the matter. They asked not to be named because they aren’t authorized to talk about the transaction, which will help the club refinance debt and boost liquidity. Spokespeople for Barcelona and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

The New York-based bank is also leading the lending syndicate for CVC’s investment that will give the private equity firm a stake in a new company housing all of the Spanish soccer league’s businesses, subsidiaries and joint ventures.

The deal was approved on Thursday with the backing of 38 out of 42 clubs, with Barcelona and Real Madrid among the teams opting out. The country’s two biggest clubs feared they would lose a slice of their broadcasting rights for the next 50 years. Real Madrid announced this week it would take legal action against CVC.

That means CVC’s investment, originally set at 2.7 billion euros, will be cut to 2.1 billion euros, La Liga’s chairman Javier Tebas said in a press conference on Thursday.

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