Barcelona Sells Another $100M of Its Content Arm as Season Opener Looms




 

Barcelona's sell-off continues.

The Spanish soccer team, one of the most popular and most valuable in the world, announced Friday morning that it had sold 24.5% of its content arm, Barça Studios, to Orpheus Media for about $103 million (€100 million Euros). The news comes just two weeks after it sold another 24.5% stake in the company to Socios on similar terms, and could help the team register its big offseason signings before the La Liga season kicks off Saturday.

Those are just two of the recent deals Barcelona has cut to secure immediate cash. The soccer giant has spent itself into a financial disaster over the past few years-culminating in its inability to retain club icon Lionel Messi in 2021-and new leadership has decided to try and maintain its status as one of the sports top clubs and biggest spenders, all while dealing with more than $1.3 billion in debt.

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In addition to the Barça Studios sales, Barcelona in June sold 10% of its media rights over the next 25 years to private equity giant Sixth Street for about $216 million (€207.5 million). Less than a month later, it sold another 15% to Sixth Street. The club's delegates have additionally approved the potential sale of 49.94% of Barcelona's Licensing and Merchandising rights, an entity owned by FCB responsible for negotiating licensing and merchandising deals for the club. Earlier in May, Barcelona agreed to a four-year, $280 million shirt sponsorship and stadium naming deal with the Swedish music platform Spotify (Camp Nou will be renamed Spotify Camp Nou starting Saturday until 2026).

All of this comes after the club took a $696 million (€595 million) loan from Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) last year. The U.S.-based investment bank helped Blaugrana recover from pandemic-related debt by providing the loan in the form of private placement notes, which provided nearly $300 million of liquidity, and refinanced $200 million of existing notes. These senior security notes were backed by Barca's all-media revenues including those from LaLiga and Champions League. Goldman Sachs did not respond Sportico's request for comment earlier this week.

The immediate concern for Barcelona is registering its group of new players, signed in the offseason after committing to more than $100 million in transfer fees. The LaLiga season starts Saturday and high-profile newcomers Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha haven't been officially registered for the season, because the team wasn't deemed to be in compliance with LaLiga's strict spending caps. This second Barça Studios sale could get them over that hump.

Last week, Fitch Ratings revised Barca's private placement (P.P.) notes at 'BBB-' the lowest rating for an investment grade asset that's not considered junk. Their outstanding loan for $478 million received BBB- rating from the credit rating agency Fitch previously. The negative outlook reflected the club's financial under-performance in the financial year ending in June 2022 versus Fitch expectations, as well as slower-than-expected deleveraging compared with the Fitch rating case (FRC) last year.

Orpheus Media is managed by Jaume Roures, a media mogul who already has close ties both La Liga and Barcelona. Roures reportedly helped back new Barcelona president Joan Laporta's budget guarantee (a requirement before his inauguration), and his MediaPro has an existing commercial relationship with the league.

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