Italy's Serie A defers decision on media business stake sale

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MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's Serie A soccer league has deferred a decision over a project to sell a minority stake of its media business, as representatives of the country's top flight clubs have asked for more time to assess private equity fund proposals.

Looking for ways to lift flagging revenues and weather the coronavirus crisis, Serie A has asked investors to submit bids to buy a stake of up to 15% in a newly-created media company that would control its broadcast rights.

But sources close to the matter told Reuters some Serie A clubs were reluctant to accept losing their sway over such vital businesses.

Private equity firms CVC, Bain Capital and Advent International have submitted bids for a stake in the business, while Apollo, Fortress and Blackstone's credit arm GSO have made proposals for debt or hybrid financing deals, the sources have said.

On the top of that, Chinese-owned media firms Wanda Sports and Mediapro have submitted separate proposals to create a dedicated Serie A broadcasting channel that would distribute over multiple platforms, the sources added.

"We need to assess what's the best way," Serie A president Paolo Dal Pino told reporters after a meeting with top executives from the 20 clubs on Thursday.

"We decided to take more time, until Aug. 25, in order to assess all the opportunities we have on our table," he said.

Serie A, which relies on broadcasting rights for more than half of its revenues, lags the financial heavyweights of the English Premier League, La Liga in Spain and the German Bundesliga.

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Editing by Mark Potter)