Lagardere pays $1.1 bil for Sportfive

Entity manages rights of more than 250 sports clubs and orgs

PARIS — In an ambitious push into high-stakes soccer rights, France’s Lagardere Group has inked a hefty $1.1 billion deal to acquire sports marketing and TV rights specialist Sportfive.

Entity, with headquarters in Paris and Hamburg, manages the rights of more than 250 sports clubs and organizations, including 50 of Europe’s main soccer clubs and leagues. It will handle the Euro 2008 soccer tournament.

Other sports include rugby, handball and boxing.

In a statement, Lagardere, Canal Plus’ second biggest shareholder and France’s largest publisher, said the acquisition was in line with its strategy of bolstering its activities in sectors “with strong growth potential and exclusive quality.”

Company wants to develop its TV and new-media activities, adding it wants to create “an industrial project” with Sportfive, not run it purely as a rights business.

Lagardere is buying Sportfive from Advent Intl., Goldman Sachs Capital Partners and RTL Group.

Sum changing hands this go round is a sizeable hike on the $700 million they paid for it in 2004.

Analysts on Monday balked at Lagardere’s price, estimated at 16 times Sportfive’s earnings before interest, tax and amortization of $70.4 million. Sportfive is expected to post revenues of $673 million in 2006.

However, Lagardere was reportedly up against rival bids from executives of Endemol and luxury group LVMH, as well as one from Russian oil baron Leonard Blavatnik and Marseille soccer club owner Robert Louis-Dreyfus.

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