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August 12, 2022

Barcelona sells additional 24.5% stake in Barca Studios to meet LaLiga FFP rules

The sale to Orpheus Media will inject €100 million into the club as it looks to register new players.

By Susan Lingeswaran

Spanish soccer giants Barcelona have today (August 12) struck a deal to sell a 24.5% stake in Barca Studios, the club’s media production arm, to web development agency Orpheus Media for €100 million ($102 million) as the club scrambles to meet LaLiga budget rules ahead of the new season.

The deal with Orpheus Media, which is owned by Catalan businessman Jaume Roures, has been approved by Barcelona’s board and marks the fourth set of club assets sold in the last two months – with almost 50% of Barca Studios now outside their control. Roures has strong ties to club president Joan Laporta and supported him with his bid for the presidency in March 2021.

In a statement, the club said: “With this investment, the strategic partners in Barca Studios show confidence in the value of the project and the future of digital content in the world of sport.”

It was previously reported the club had sold the 24.5% stake to US investment firm GDA Luma earlier this week but after discussions stalled, they were forced to look elsewhere.

In June and July, two batches of the club’s future LaLiga media rights (a 25%-stake in total) were sold to US investment firm Sixth Street for a total of €667 million. The club also sold its first 24.5% stake in Barca Studios to fan token and engagement platform Socios.com for €100 million last month.

The overall deals come on the back of Barcelona’s members agreeing to sell up to 25% of their LaLiga television rights to one or more investors, as well as 49.9% of the Barca Licensing and Merchandising arm of the club at an EGM last month.

In total, including a new sponsorship deal with Spotify, the departure of players, and increased revenue, Laporta said the club have brought in “€868 million in the last two months” as they seek to balance the books for the upcoming season.

The club is using its company Lockley Invest to facilitate the sale of rights to Sixth Street Partners.

However, it was reported earlier this week (August 10) that the league’s audit found the amount Barcelona had received from investors Sixth Street for its two packages of 10% and 15%, respectively, was only €517 million.

The remaining €150 million had been paid by the club itself, with the entire €667 million then transferred back to Barcelona and declared as new income, according to radio station Cadena Cope.

While the move, overseen by the club’s auditors Grant Thornton, was legal, the €150 million will now not count as new income.

These piece-by-piece asset sales by Barcelona represent an effort to get the club’s finances to a point where they can gain the approval of the auditors – who have been investigating the club’s accounts on behalf of LaLiga – to sign new players.

LaLiga’s salary cap measures a club’s financial state based on the last season’s budget and considers if the pre-season balance sheet has enough funds to cover the summer transfer budget and proposed wage bill for the upcoming season.

LaLiga’s financial regulations entail clubs attempting to sign players without meeting the threshold having their registrations blocked. Therefore, the Catalonian giants have had no choice but to find buyers for some of their assets – such as media rights.

The club has bought a slate of new players during the European summer transfer window, including Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde, Raphinha, Franck Kessie, and Andreas Christensen. They have also renewed contracts with Ousmane Dembele and Sergi Roberto, which count as new deals.

So far, none have been registered, with the club hoping the latest deal will push them over the line in time for the new season, which starts tonight.

To meet the budget requirements, the club are also reportedly attempting to offload several high-earning players including Frenkie de Jong, Memphis Depay, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to reduce their wage bill to accommodate the new signings.

It has also been reported the club are trying to persuade senior players Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets – both of whom came through the Barca academy – to accept salary cuts or payment deferrals.

The LaLiga club is reportedly more than $1.5 billion in debt, with the club’s leadership in June stating that €500 million would be needed to save the club from its financial crisis.

In late May, the club reportedly secured a doubling in size of the €90 million bridging loan they took out from investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS) in 2019 to help tide them over until a separate financing deal with GS kicks in.

The loan will be used to finance the redevelopment of Camp Nou Stadium which has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and the club’s dire financial state but is expected to start in 2023.

The club has said it will opt out of LaLiga Impulso, the investment venture between LaLiga and CVC Capital Partners, which will see a 10% share of LaLiga’s TV revenues sold to the private equity firm for an investment of €1.99 billion for “sporting and business growth initiatives”.

That deal was agreed by Spanish clubs last year but Barcelona, Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, and the Spanish FA have launched a lawsuit against it.  

Barcelona play their first LaLiga match of 2022-23 against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday (August 13).

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