THE private equity firm which is in exclusive negotiations with the Six Nations about buying a major share in the commercial rights to the tournament is seeking to add coronavirus clauses to its planned £300m investment which will allow the company to withhold funding if the sport is further disrupted by the pandemic.
CVC Partners has reportedly been in the final stages of sealing a deal to take a 17 per cent stake in the Championship for the last few months, but a major sticking point has emerged around how much protection the Luxembourg-based buyout specialists would get if a second wave of the virus caused further disruption to the competition, according to The Financial Times, who have spoken to people with direct knowledge of the negotiations.
While CVC is willing to stick with the full £300m investment, to be paid in instalments over five years, it wants the ability to withhold payments if the majority of games are cancelled in the coming years or if there are bankruptcies within the sport.
This arrangement would allow payments to be delayed until games are restarted. The buyout group is also seeking commitments that the tournament will hold back some cash from the six countries’ unions to cover costs in case the pandemic worsens and affects matches.
CVC’s planned investment would be split between the six unions, with England and France getting the largest shares because of the higher value of their broadcasting rights. The deal is to include the Autumn Test schedule as well as the Six Nations championship matches.
Meanwhile, the Irish Times has presented a slightly different scenario, by stating that CVC have reduced their offer by half, to €165 million (£150 million) for a 14.5 percent stake, with no mention of clauses. The two parties are apparently set to meet again within the next two weeks as they seek to agree a revised valuation. The report states that if an agreement is to be reached it is likely to fall in between the original and revised offers, in other words somewhere in the region of €200-220 million (£180-£200 million).
The deal was meant to have been completed in March, but was pushed back as coronavirus forced games to be postponed and plunged the sport’s finances into turmoil.
CVC has already bought shares in two of Europe’s three major professional leagues, with a 27 per cent holding in England’s Premiership Rugby, and a 28 per cent stake in PRO14. The Six Nations deal would represent the jewel in the crown of their rugby investments.
French rugby chief Bernard Laporte told the AGM of the Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR) last week that a deal was on the verge of being completed, but it seems there are still a few obstacles to be negotiated before anything is signed off.