Manchester City owner scores $4.8 billion price tag with stake sale

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Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi-controlled owner has agreed to sell a $500 million stake to U.S. private equity firm Silver Lake, making it the world’s most valuable soccer group with a $4.8 billion price tag.

Silver Lake will buy just over 10% of City Football Group (CFG), which owns reigning English Premier League champions Manchester City and teams in the United States, Australia and China, the companies said on Wednesday.

The investment crowns a rags to riches story for Manchester City over several decades which spent much of the 1990s in the doldrums but then broke into the big league of world soccer with the help of Middle Eastern cash.

Europe’s top soccer clubs have drawn in big money from some of the world’s richest investors over the last decade, as the game attracts more and more fans in lucrative markets such as Asia, the United States and the Middle East.

Man City’s big domestic rival Manchester United (MANU.N) are owned by the American Glazer family, while Chelsea are owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and America’s Fenway Sports Group controls current European champions Liverpool.

French champions Paris Saint Germain are owned by Qatar Sports Investments.

“Silver Lake is a global leader in technology investing, and we are delighted by both the validation that their investment in CFG represents, and the opportunities for further growth that their partnership brings,” CFG Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said in a statement.

CFG, which also owns or part owns New York City FC, Melbourne City FC, Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan, Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay, Girona FC in Spain and Sichuan Jiuniu FC in China, said none of its existing shareholders were selling equity stakes as part of the Silver Lake deal.

It added that Abu Dhabi United Group, the investment vehicle owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, would remain the majority CFG shareholder with a stake of around 77%.

Although City were champions of England in 1968, the club were heavily overshadowed by local rivals Manchester United and even suffered the embarrassment of falling into the third tier of English football in 1998.

Fast forward two decades and it is in the money.

Man City, whose playing squad includes England’s Raheem Sterling, Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne and Argentina’s Sergio Aguero, this month reported record high 2018-19 revenue of 535.2 million pounds ($687 million) in a fifth consecutive year of profitability.

Silver Lake Managing Director Egon Durban, who will join the board of CFG, said it would “help drive the next phase of CFG’s growth in the fast-growing premium sports and entertainment content market”.

Silver Lake, based in Menlo Park, California, helped Michael Dell take the PC maker he founded private in 2013, and has invested in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, U.S. chip maker Broadcom and global sports talent agency IMG.

Manchester City lagged in much of the 1990s, often out of England’s top-flight league and far behind Manchester United, which remains England’s record league title holders with 20 championship titles.

However, the influx of Middle Eastern cash has since led to a revival in Man City’s fortunes.

The team, managed by former Barcelona man Pep Guardiola, won an unprecedented domestic treble last season – the Premier League title, the FA Cup and the League Cup.

Unlike Manchester United and Liverpool, however, Man City is yet to win Europe’s most prestigious title, the Champions League.