German club soccer's governing body the DFL has revealed that private investment firm Blackstone is no longer a potential strategic marketing partner for the body’s Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga competitions.

The drawn-out process has seen five candidates now whittled down to one, as Blackstone’s withdrawal leaves only CVC Capital Partners in the running.

The DFL is hoping to see a private investment firm take as much as an 8% stake in the league’s broadcast rights, with the DFL’s asking price said to be as much as €1 billion ($1.1 billion).

Both CVC and Blackstone reportedly offered around to the DFL’s €1 billion asking price, however the DFL stated that “no longer considered as a strategic marketing partner after good discussions.”

“The further process will continue with CVC according to the planned schedule,” added the body.

The DFL will aim to use the investment and presence of a major financial backer to springboard the Bundesliga to a more lucrative broadcast deal in order to keep it in step with the English Premier League and other top European soccer competitions.

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A deal has been in the offing since November 2023, when a majority of the DFL’s supervisory board voted in favour of seeking out a new strategic marketing partnership, with Bundesliga and 2. Bundeliga clubs narrowly supporting the idea in December.

This is the third time that the DFL has sought outside investment in its media rights, with the prior two attempts abandoned due to fan protests, however, the growing financial inequality between Europe’s top leagues has likely left the DFL with little choice.

The potential for a CVC deal mirrors a similar deal taken by the private equity firm in France’s LFP soccer governing body, wherein it paid €1.5 billion for 13% of the league’s media rights.

CVC also has an interest in Spanish top-tier soccer’s commercial side, leading many to enquire whether or not there is a conflict of interest.

The decision to involve private equity firms in the running of the league is an idea hugely unpopular with a large swathe of German soccer fans fiercely defensive of the league’s independence from large corporate interests.

Bar a few unpopular exceptions, German clubs adhere to a strict fan ownership model known as the ‘50+1 rule’, and German fans are among the most organized in Europe when protesting actions they deem as detrimental to the integrity of the league.

This manifested itself in the latest round of fixtures across the divisions when fans of a number of clubs protested against the DFL’s investment plans.

The top-of-the-table clash between heavyweights Bayern Munich and Bayer 04 Leverkusen on February 10 was delayed when fans threw items on the pitch in protest at the prospect of CVC or Blackstone investing.

Other matches including Hamburg SV’s second-tier fixture vs Hannover 96 were also marred by fan action.