Rebecca Hawkes ©RapidTVNews | 07-09-2011
Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has reportedly lost out to a 550 million euro (US$707 million) bid for the Swiss media agency which sells the Asian broadcasting rights for the FIFA World Cup.
Instead, London based private equity company Bridgepoint Capital is the new sole owner of Infront Sports and Media, the agency run by Philippe Blatter - nephew of FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, according to the Financial Times.
As well as controlling the Asian TV rights for the football World Cup, Infront represents seven national football federations, the Skiing World Cup, and the World Superbikes series. In total it represents 120 sports rights holders.
Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) - which owns London’s iconic Harrods store among other global assets - had hoped to increase its sporting interests in the run up to the 2022 World Cup, which Qatar is famously hosting.
This summer, QIA bought a 70% stake in French football team, Paris St Germain: a deal sealed just before the Gulf state’s sports channel, Al Jazeera Sports won the TV rights to French La Ligue 1 football for four years beginning 2012.
The government backed Al Jazeera Sports already holds rights to broadcast the prestigious UEFA Champions League and FA Cup football tournaments across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), as well as the FIFA World Cup in 2014, 2018 and 2022.
Football is hot property for broadcasters in the Arab world. The last football World Cup final, between Spain and Holland in 2011, was watched by 162 million viewers across MENA – representing the single largest TV audience ever recorded in the region, according to Al Jazeera Sports.
Its Gulf rival, Abu Dhabi Sports – owned by Abu Dhabi Media – holds the sought after regional broadcasting rights for the English Premier League, in a three year deal from 2010, which was variously reported to have cost between US$150 - 300 million.
Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund was reportedly also originally in the running for Infront Sports and Media.
According to the Financial Times, the Infront agency made revenues of about 600 million euro ($863 million) last year, and has been described as highly profitable.