Elliott, Mediapro Are Said to Have Discussed Soccer-Rights Deal

(Bloomberg) -- Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. and Mediapro have discussed the possibility of the U.S. hedge fund backing the Spanish TV and film producer’s investment in broadcast rights to Italy’s top soccer league, according to people familiar with the matter.

Officials for New York-based Elliott met Mediapro head and co-founder Jaume Roures twice this month in Milan, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. The discussions are preliminary and may not lead to a deal, the people added. The fund’s eventual role could be to provide financing, they said. One person said Elliott has decided not to move ahead for now.

Barcelona-based Mediapro in February won the TV rights to Italy’s top league, Serie A, after offering 3.15 billion euros ($3.71 billion) for three seasons of 380 matches each in a deal ending in 2021. Mediapro outbid Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia unit and Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset to gain the rights. Sky challenged the decision from Italy’s soccer league and a court in Milan ordered a review of the auction to guarantee compliance with local law. Mediapro has appealed that ruling.

Mediapro declined to comment. A representative for Elliott wasn’t immediately available to comment.

Elliott has increasingly found value in Italy’s media and telecoms industries. The hedge fund became Telecom Italia SpA’s second-largest shareholder and defeated Vivendi SA in a battle for board control this month. A deal with Mediapro for the soccer rights wouldn’t be the hedge fund’s first foray into Italian sports. Elliott agreed to provide 303 million euros of financing when Berlusconi sold AC Milan, Italy’s most successful club at the international level, to Chinese investors last year, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

As an investor in Italy’s biggest phone carrier, Elliott could benefit from a deal with a soccer TV rights broker like Mediapro. Telecom Italia, which is struggling to revamp its business, could lure customers by broadcasting more top Italian matches through its broadband network and the games could boost consumer pick-up of its fiber services in a country that lags behind others in Europe in terms of internet speeds.

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