Qatar wealth fund loses bid for Swiss sports giant

QIA lost bidding war to acquire media firm that holds broadcast rights for the World Cup
Qatar wealth fund loses bid for Swiss sports giant
Reigning World Cup champions, Spain, shown after a dramatic 1-0 victory over Holland in Johannesburg in 2010
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Mon 05 Sep 2011 10:57 AM

Qatar Investment Authority, the Gulf state’s sovereign wealth fund, has lost its bid to acquire the media agency that controls the broadcasting rights to the FIFA World Cup.

London-based private equity firm Bridgepoint Capital agreed to pay €550m ($707m) for Infront, the agency that controls the rights to the World Cup, six winter sports federations, AC Milan and the World Superbikes series, British media reported Monday.

Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), which owns stakes in Barclays, Sainsbury’s and the London Stock Exchange, was the only other bidder after Dubai’s sovereign wealth fund dropped out of the buying race this year.

QIA was said to be particularly interested in the hosting rights for the World Cup, which it will host in Doha in 2022.

InFront is run by Philippe Blatter, the nephew of FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s, who was forced to defend bribery allegations this year after Qatar was named as the World Cup host.

Qatar’s Al Jazeera in June won the rights to broadcast French football from 2012 through to 2016 prompting concerns over how it will deliver sports events to its new audience as it doesn’t have a mainstream platform in Europe.

The state-backed broadcaster also owns the broadcast rights for the UEFA Champions League or France's La Ligue 1.

The CEO of Dubai’s Orbit Showtime Network, which lost the exclusive rights to air Premier League football matches in 2010, has said state-backed firms in the Gulf have a near monopoly on TV rights for top footballing events as their deep pockets can out-bid rival networks.

Abu Dhabi Media Company bid is rumoured to have bid up to $300m for a three-year deal to broadcast the Premier League.

“The people who own the Premier League today cannot make money for what they’ve paid,” David Butorac told Arabian Business in February.

“There are people who are paying for sports rights in this market that have no commercial imperative to make money.”

As a result, broadcast rights are being sold for increasingly sky-high sums, he added. “The issue with sports rights is this market, is the sports rights have gone for uneconomic rates.”

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