Dell’s Money Manager Weighs Loan to English Soccer Team

(Bloomberg) -- MSD Partners, an investment firm tied to Michael Dell’s family office, is in talks with Derby County FC to finance the English soccer club, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The deal will probably take the form of a loan secured against the club, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

Details of the talks have emerged even as soccer leagues have postponed matches in response to the deadly coronavirus pandemic -- a move that’s depriving clubs of revenue. Derby’s latest accounts showed an operating loss of 31 million pounds ($36 million) for the year that ended in June 2018.

The global popularity of soccer and the premium placed on live events means a club like Derby -- one of the 12 founding members of the Football League in 1888 -- remains an attractive proposition even though it plays one tier below the lucrative and more glamorous English Premier League. It has sought to revive its fortunes by recruiting former England striker Wayne Rooney as a player.

Derby owner Mel Morris made millions from an investment in King Digital Entertainment, the maker of mobile phone game Candy Crush, when it was sold in a deal that closed in 2016. He has invested more than 100 million pounds in the club since 2015, and has said he’s open to additional investment from an outside source, according to the Derby Telegraph newspaper.

Morris didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.

Dell’s approach is the latest sign of financial investors taking an interest in sports teams. Three MSD executives have already financed Sunderland AFC, another English team. Paul Singer’s Elliot Management owns AC Milan in Italy, while an investment firm owns French club Bordeaux.

That’s despite the world of sports being littered with owners who’ve sunk money and resources into their teams without success. European soccer is particularly treacherous because, unlike American sports, teams can be “relegated,” or demoted to a lower division.

The talks were first reported by the Telegraph.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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