US private equity firm Silver Lake has cemented its position as the second largest shareholder in Manchester City’s parent company, with the group’s Chinese investors cutting their stake to near zero.
The Silicon Valley-based company now owns more than 18% of City Football Group after buying more shares from China Media Capital, CFG confirmed.
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the royal billionaire who acquired Manchester City in 2008, also increased his stake as a majority shareholder in the parent group through Abu Dhabi-based Newton Investment and Development. Under his control, reigning Premier League champions Manchester City have transformed into a dominant force in English football.
Silver Lake’s continued appetite to bolster its position in CFG highlights institutional investors’ appetite for buying elite sports assets. It’s also symbolic of how Chinese buyers have retreated from European football since Beijing tightened capital controls.
Flight last month reported This Raine Group investment bank is looking for buyers from Italian football club Inter Milan, which is controlled by Nanjing-based electronics retailer Suning. Inter said they would consider an investment rather than a full sale. Other Chinese investors have already sold stakes in clubs ranging from English Premier League club Aston Villa to French Lyon.
Meanwhile, US investors Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital in May acquired Chelsea FC for £2.5 billion, a record for a football club takeover. This deal set a benchmark for elite clubs.
The Glazer family said this week that they will consider selling Manchester United after 17 years of ownership, just weeks after it emerged billionaire John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group was looking into finding a buyer or new investors for Liverpool FC.
City said Silver Lake’s latest transaction was a “further endorsement” of its business model and “continued international growth.”
“CMC remains a valued partner of CFG, particularly in China,” the group said.
CFG declined to comment on financial details of the deal. The group, which owns football clubs around the world, was valued at $4.8 billion when Silver Lake bought its initial 10% stake.
Silver Lake did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Chinese shareholder still owns 1% of CFG and will continue to bring “significant knowledge and expertise” to the board, City said.
The transaction took place earlier this week, with CMC selling 7.24% of the group. Silver Lake bought half the shares, with Sheikh Mansour’s Newton vehicle acquiring the rest.
The deal means CMC has given up its seat on CFG’s board and media mogul Li Ruigang has stepped down. At one point, CMC owned up to about 13%.
Silver Lake has established close ties with Abu Dhabi. The technology-focused investment firm initially acquired shares in CFG after Hollywood impresario Ari Emanuel – founder of Endeavor – introduced managing partner Egon Durban to CFG’s Khaldoon Al Mubarak. Mubarak is managing director of Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund that took a stake in Silver Lake in 2020.
Silver Lake previously increased its stake in CFG to 14.5% by acquiring a separate block of shares from CMC.
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