The British investment company Lindsell Train doubled their investment in Juventus FC (from 5% to 10%.) The owner of the company, Michael Lindsell, released an official document which explains the investment strategies of his group in the world of sport. Lindsell Train also holds 12% of Celtic, one percent of ISC (the organization of the NASCAR racing in the USA), and eight percent of the World Wrestling Entertainment.
The reasons why the fund is investing in sports:
According to Michael Lindsell: “The fans of the sport clubs are the most loyal on the market. This is the reason why they are also appreciated by the advertising market and the entertainment media. Let’s think about SKY and the fact that its success is built on the sports TV rights. Their business is developed on the Premier League and ESPN that has long-term contractual commitments with major sports leagues such as American football, baseball, and hockey.”
“The market capitalization of these teams is relatively low. Celtic has 70 million pounds, Juventus €234 million, ISC €1.15 billion, and the WWE €1.16 bln. At this stage our fund has selected these 4 companies which represent 4.8% of our net asset value (NAV.)
In the last 5 years Celtic’s total yield was 14.1% while that of Juventus was -2.4%, ISC 6.6%, and WWE 26.9%. In the document signed by Michael Lindsell Celtic is not mentioned. The Scottish club has recently announced a return to profit (€575,000). This was made possible mainly thanks to the capital gains given by the trade of Virgil van Dijk to Southampton, Teemu Pukki to Brondby, and Adam Matthews to Sunderlan. Although the same club recorded a loss of €4.6 million in the previous financial year but with a two percent revenue growth (€59.82 million) that is also expected to further grow thanks to the participation in the Champions League. The European competition will bring revenue of at least €12.7 million from the market pool.
Why did WWE perform so much better than Juventus?
“WWE had a great success thanks to the internationalization of its franchise. 26% of revenues come from countries other than the United States. WWE is well established in the UK, Mexico and Canada and in the recent years is also expanding in China and India. These countries have an enormous potential due to their huge populations. However, the most important fact is that WWE consolidated itself thanks to the internet. It has built a subscriber base of 1.5 million paying customers who can access their contents 24 hours a day. It means to directly distribute their own content without intermediaries to pay. In addition, we believe there is room for the company to improve its television agreements. It is also very important to understand that wrestlers are property of the company and they can hardly go anywhere else as the stars of football do. However, it is encouraging to note that last month the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was sold for $ 4 billion, more than three times that of WWE’s current evaluation.”
“Juventus is the most prestigious club in Italy and it has the potential to get to a fan base equal to half of the Italian football fans. We subscribed a capital increase to finance the club, to pay for a new stadium, and to rebuild the team after its relegation, however, the bad management of the Italian league and the club in recent years left the league behind the rest of Europe. Nowadays, Juventus stands out as the only club in Italy that has its own stadium and with a new management led by Andrea Agnelli. Juventus won five consecutive titles and reached the final match in the 2014 Champions League. The club made significant investment in the team and its infrastructures. Revenues increased by 50% over the past five years and the cash flow is finally close to a positive turn. Unfortunately much of this success has been financed by debt, and we would like to see it fall soon.”
Risks and vision:
“Just 1 year without the Champions League could put the club in danger again. In that situation Juventus would require another capital increase, even if their management believe to have the budget to do it 4 out of 5 years. Juventus’ debt reduction is also a target of their main shareholder Exor that holds 64% of the bianconeri. Exor is apparently anxious to see a return on their investment as we are.”
“The shares may be up 19% this year. Currently, the market estimates Juventus at 1.3 times revenue while Manchester United is valued at 5.1. Recently the two clubs of Milan were sold for four times the values in respect to their revenues. We firmly believe that the value of those clubs is inferior compared to Juventus.”
“The company hosts the equivalent of Formula 1 and it is owned by the France family, that is a shareholder at 35%, and founder of the company. Just like F1 this sport has loyal fans and many TV followers, despite a decrease since the peak of 2007. Formula 1 has just been sold to Liberty Media for an amount of 4 times the sales and a much higher evaluation than the current 2.3 of Nascar. This is very encouraging.”