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Final whistle for talks between Matchroom Sport and Six Nations Rugby backer CVC

Final whistle for talks between Matchroom Sport and Six Nations Rugby backer CVC

A period of exclusive negotiations between Barry and Eddie Hearn's sports promoter and CVC Capital Partners has ended after they failed to agree a price.
The sports promoter created by Barry and Eddie Hearn has ended talks about the sale of a large stake to CVC Capital Partners, the buyout firm which backs Six Nations Rugby.

Sky News has learnt that a period of exclusive negotiations between Matchroom Sport and CVC has concluded after the two sides were unable to agree on a price.

Industry sources said on Thursday that the discussions fell apart last week.

While it was possible that they could be revived, such a development was unlikely, the sources added.

Sky News revealed nearly a year ago that Matchroom was exploring the sale of a big minority stake as the Hearns sought new capital to accelerate the company's expansion.

One insider said Matchroom could pursue a deal with another investor or, eventually, a public listing for its shares.

Founded by Barry Hearn in its current guise in 1982, Matchroom dominated the management and promotion of snooker during its heyday, with huge television audiences tuning in to watch stars such as Steve Davis and Jimmy 'Whirlwind' White.

This week, the elder Mr Hearn appeared at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre alongside the first winner of the World Snooker Championship from mainland Europe, the Belgian Luca Brecel.

Since the early 1980s, it has diversified into other sports, most notably boxing, and was responsible for staging the landmark fight between Frank Bruno and Joe Bugner at Tottenham Hotspur's White Hart Lane ground in 1987.

It is now one of the most important commercial players in the boxing world, promoting fighters including Anthony Joshua, Katie Taylor and Josh Warrington.

This week, Eddie Hearn, who runs Matchroom on a day-to-day basis, is in Guadalajara, Mexico, to promote a super-middleweight bout between Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez and John Ryder.

Sources said that a deal between CVC and Matchroom would have valued the sport's promoter at roughly £700m, while the Hearns believe it is worth £100m more than that figure.

The recent $21bn deal which saw Endeavor Group Holdings agree to combine UFC with World Wrestling Entertainment is said to have fuelled the Matchroom executives' expectations about the future value of their company.

CVC, meanwhile, is thought to have been determined to retain pricing discipline at a time of soaring valuations for premium sports assets.

The owners of Manchester United FC, for example, could agree a world record price for a football club in the coming days.

Last year, the TV and streaming rights to Indian Premier League cricket were bought for more than $6bn in deals involving global media giants such as Disney.

KKR and Searchlight Capital were interested in a deal with Matchroom last year, although it was unclear on Thursday whether either would seek to revive discussions.

The Hearns are understood to have no intention of relinquishing control of Matchroom, which also has a substantial presence in sports such as darts and pool.

In a recent Sunday Times interview, the younger Mr Hearn said: "It's such a difficult conversation over Sunday lunch, because my dad has always said to me: 'Whatever you do, do not sell this business, do not let people into the business, do not let people affect your decisions. This is our company - we will make all the decisions, and that's how it will always be.'

"But I recognise that through our growth, there is another level. We are already operating at a level that no one ever expected us to, but there's so much more potential for growth."

In 2021, Matchroom struck a global deal with the sports streaming platform DAZN, adding to a reported $1bn tie-up in 2018 that saw DAZN agree to show Matchroom's fights in the US.

Private equity firms have seized on the potential to acquire sports and related media assets to create new commercial formats which are more readily embraced by both fans and broadcasters.

CVC has been the most prolific example of this, snapping up stakes in leagues and other formats in rugby union, tennis and volleyball.

It has also been a major investor in football, buying a stake in Spain's La Liga commercial rights, while it is among the contenders for a similar deal in Germany's Bundesliga.

CVC's investment in Formula One motor racing, which it exited in 2016 through the sale of its remaining stake to Liberty Media Corporation, is often referred to as one of the most lucrative in the history of private equity.

Matchroom and CVC both declined to comment on the talks.
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