Soccer-Serie A sets Sept. 30 bid deadline for media rights unit - sources

By Elvira Pollina, Clara Denina , Pamela Barbaglia and Elisa Anzolin

MILAN/LONDON, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Serie A has asked buyout funds racing for a stake in its media rights business to submit their final offers by Sept. 30 as Italy's top soccer league scramble to wrap up the process, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Two rival private equity consortia led by CVC Capital Partners and Bain Capital are vying for a 10% stake in a newly created entity that will handle Italian league broadcasting rights for ten seasons.

The two funds submitted initial proposals in early September valuing the stake at about 1.6 billion euros and are now working on improving the structure and terms of their respective bids, the sources said.

The deal is seen as key to boosting the league's vital broadcasting rights business, especially abroad, while helping its clubs, which include Juventus and AC Milan, weather the coronavirus crisis.

Bain is in talks to strike a partnership deal with Spanish media rights agency Mediapro, which could add industry expertise to navigate the complexity of the Serie A transaction, two of the sources said.

Mediapro, which was not immediately available for comment, has worked on the TV rights of other football leagues including Spain's La Liga and France's Ligue 1.

CVC is also working on its final bid and exploring ways to sweeten its terms by Sept. 30, another source said.

Serie A presidents are expected to meet as soon as Oct. 6 to review the offers and select a preferred bidder to enter exclusive talks, the sources said.

The meeting has yet to be formalised but would take place immediately after the summer transfer window, which will close on Oct. 5, they said.

One of the sources cautioned, however, that the league might take longer to make up its mind.

"This is going to be a long-lasting battle. We are nowhere close to the end," he said.

But Serie A is facing pressure to strike a new TV rights deal to replace the one that expires at the end of the current season.

"It is important to decide quickly to give the new media company time to deal with the TV rights 2021-2024 sale", one of the sources said.

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina and Elisa Anzolin in Milan, Clara Denina and Pamela Barbaglia in London; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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