Private equity giant CVC aims to score with $300m global volleyball deal

·3-min read

The former owner of Formula One motor racing is on the brink of a $300m deal with volleyball's governing body that will aim to expand the appeal of one of the world's most popular sports.

Sky News has learnt that CVC Capital Partners has struck an alliance with the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), which is responsible for organising the sport's qualifying event for the Olympic Games and beach volleyball's world series.

The deal could be announced early this week, according to an adviser close to the talks.

It will result in the creation of Volleyball World, a new commercial entity that will initially work with FIVB and subsequently target partnerships with other leagues and federations around the world.

CVC is understood to have identified the sport as being ripe for international commercial expansion because of its near-1 billion fan base globally and the high level of interest in the sport in countries such as Brazil, China, Italy, Japan and the US.

Volleyball was the most-watched sport at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, with 2.6bn viewing hours globally, according to analysts.

By some measures, it is the world's third most popular sport.

Under the partnership, Volleyball World will seek to increase the game's popularity and profile through its operation of the World Championships, Olympic qualifiers and the Nations League event.

Insiders said that CVC had lined up Finn Taylor, a former Cirque du Soleil executive, to become chief executive of the new commercial entity.

Simon Denyer, the founder of sports streaming service DAZN, is also understood to be joining the Volleyball World board.

The deal will not affect FIVB's status as volleyball's global regulatory body, which includes responsibility for the sport and its international development.

It will be the latest major sports deal struck by CVC, which set a benchmark for private equity investment in the industry with its decade-long ownership of F1.

The London-headquartered buyout firm was also the controlling shareholder in MotoGP, which it sold as a consequence of its initial investment in F1.

More recently, it has taken partial ownership of Premiership Rugby, the top flight of rugby union in England.

It is also expected to announce a deal to buy a stake in the Six Nations Championship ahead of the expected first round of matches in this year's tournament this weekend.

CVC is also in discussions about acquiring a substantial shareholding in the commercial rights arm of Serie A, the top division of Italian football.

The glut of sports rights deals comes during a period when sports have been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, forcing governing bodies, leagues and clubs to seek new financing.

Private equity firms have seen the crisis as an opportunity to deploy capital, while also utilising their expertise in areas such as media and broadcast rights and data.

Sky News revealed last month that Silver Lake, the US-based private equity investor, was in advanced talks to buy a stake in the commercial rights of the New Zealand All Blacks.

CVC declined to comment on Monday, while FIVB could not be reached for comment.