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這家私募公司為什么借錢也要收購英超俱樂部?

這家私募公司為什么借錢也要收購英超俱樂部?

Rey Mashayekhi 2021年02月09日
人們希望,ALK Capital公司的收購,能為伯恩利俱樂部帶來更多的財務保障。

元旦前夕,英國伯恩利足球俱樂部宣布,美國私募股權公司ALK Capital已經收購了該足球隊的多數股權。消息一出,外界都認為這對伯恩利俱樂部是件大好事。近年來,伯恩利俱樂部雖然預算有限,但球隊上下信心堅定,球風穩健,其成績在激烈的英超聯賽中已經算是超水平發揮了。人們希望,ALK Capital公司的收購,能為伯恩利俱樂部帶來更多的財務保障——首先可以解決球隊缺錢引進球員的問題,只有引入有實力的球員,球隊整體實力才能上一個臺階。

到目前為止,伯恩利的球迷對新球員可以說是望眼欲穿。一月份的轉會窗口期已經關閉了,但伯恩利俱樂部并未簽下任何新球員。眼看賽季過半,俱樂部的排名還處在聯賽下游。所以球迷不禁會想,ALK的收購,究竟能給這家俱樂部帶來什么新氣象?

上周二,英國《衛報》有關這筆收購的最新細節。這筆1.7億英鎊(約合2.31億美元)的收購款包含大量債務,屬于一種杠桿收購。據報道,ALK的負責人是前花旗集團高管艾倫?佩斯。在這筆收購款里,有6000萬英鎊(約合8200萬美元)是從億萬富翁邁克爾?戴爾的私人投資公司借來的貸款。這筆貸款是用伯恩利俱樂部的收入擔保的,它現在轉到了俱樂部的帳上,貸款年利率雖未披露,但據信超過了9%。此外,據說ALK還從伯恩利俱樂部自己的賬上拿出了4000萬英鎊(5400萬美元),支付給了俱恩利俱樂部的前老板作為頭期款。這樣一來,ALK真正自掏腰包的部分其實是很少的。

從最近公布的財報看,伯恩利公司并沒有欠什么外債,而且賬上還有4200萬英鎊的現金。而被ALK杠桿收購后,它的資產負債表反而變難看了,俱樂部背上了沉重的債務包袱,未來財政狀況更加捉襟見肘也說不定。 (本月早些時候有消息稱,ALK已經同意,如果它未能支付三筆余款,就將把俱樂部交還給原老板。)艾倫?佩斯則為這筆收購做了辯解,他稱這筆收購是“絕對合理和可持續的”,ALK是“為了長期目的”而收購伯恩利的。

ALK的發言人向《財富》提交了一份伯恩利俱樂部的聲明。聲明表示:“伯恩利足球俱樂部的現金儲備在收購后仍然保持良好,與其他英超俱樂部相比,處于一個較好的水平。在新東家的領導下,它將處于一個能夠蓬勃發展的有利地位?!?/p>

近年來,到歐洲收購足球俱樂部的私募公司不在少數,而且其中很多都是美國公司,他們大肆收購歐洲各地的球隊,都看準了足球這項運動在全世界日益增長的吸引力,和利潤豐厚的電視轉播合同。作為全球最激動人心、競爭最激烈的聯賽,英超更是吸引了無數球迷的關注——尤其是它的電視轉播合同令其他歐洲聯賽相形見絀。2015年,阿波羅全球管理公司(Apollo Global Management)的喬希?哈里斯和黑石集團的戴維?布利策聯手收購了南倫敦的水晶宮足球俱樂部的控股權——這兩人還擁有NBA的費城76人隊和NHL的新澤西魔鬼隊的控股權。最近,硅谷巨頭銀湖投資也斥資5億美元,收購了總部在阿布扎比的城市足球集團(City Football Group)的少數股權,該集團在全球擁有多家足球俱樂部,其中就包括英超的曼城俱樂部。

不過,美國人對英國俱樂部的投資并非總是成功的。美國人的這種過度杠桿化的資本游戲隱藏了很大風險,一旦爆雷,甚至會在球迷中引發騷亂,并且導致俱樂部陷入嚴重的財務困境,這種事并非沒有先例。在ALK對伯恩利俱樂部的收購中,這家公司的私募特性,就讓一些人想到了過去幾起失敗的交易,不禁一些球迷和觀察人士對這筆交易有了“做成夾生飯”的擔心。

利物浦、曼聯殷鑒不遠

被杠桿收購折騰得最慘痛的案例,就是英超的利物浦足球俱樂部,它是歐洲足球史上最榮耀的俱樂部之一,也是目前的衛冕冠軍。2007年,美國投資者湯姆???怂购蛦讨?吉列特收購了利物浦,結果使該俱樂部背上了數億英鎊的債務。在金融危機后的信貸緊縮時期,俱樂部的老板們發現自己已經無力融資,結果導致了俱樂部的財富縮水,引發了利物浦球迷的大規??棺h,最終將俱樂部推到了破產的邊緣。最終,法庭只好下令將利物浦出售給了現任老板(也是美國公司)——總部位于波士頓的芬威體育集團(Fenway Sports Group),這才將利物浦從破產邊緣拯救了出來。

另一個反面典型是曼聯,和利物浦一樣,它也是英超最大最成功的俱樂部之一。它現在的老板也是美國投資者——格雷澤家族。格雷澤家族還擁有NFL的坦帕灣海盜隊(Tampa Bay Buccaners)。2005年,格雷澤家族舉債5億英鎊抵押俱樂部的資產,用的是跟ALK同樣的套路,為此它需要每年支付幾千萬英鎊的利息。作為世界上最財大氣粗的俱樂部之一,曼聯是有足夠的收入來支付這些費用的,同時依然能夠打造出一支高收入和高競爭力的球隊。雖然如此,但格雷澤家族的財務策略——比如在高額債務讓俱樂部的財力持續縮水的情況下,格雷澤家族依然為自己發放高額分紅等,仍引發了球迷的不安,甚至引起了英國政府官員的擔憂。

當然,伯恩利俱樂部被收購后的債務水平,還遠遠不及這兩大英超巨頭的杠桿水平??墒遣骼氖杖胍策h遠比不上曼聯和利物浦,更何況受疫情影響,各俱樂部現在都是勒緊褲腰帶過日子,由于球迷沒法進入球場看球,英超各俱樂部的損失累計已達數十億美元。另外,如果伯恩利俱樂部的運氣不佳,成績滑落到了20個俱樂部里的最后三位,那就難逃降級命運,屆時它還有沒有能力還上這樣一筆債務,只怕要打上一個大大的問號。如果這種最悲觀的情景出現了,伯恩利俱樂部只有變賣家產一條路可走,包括賣掉隊中最優秀的球員,甚至是賣掉俱樂部旗下擁有138年歷史的Turf Moor球場。

在ALK提供的俱樂部聲明中,伯恩利俱樂啊的新老板表示,他們的財務模式“考慮到了所有的經濟情況,包括球場以內和球場之外的情況?!辈⒈硎?,ALK將“致力于未來幾年對俱樂部、對球隊和球場設施進行投資”。它還特別強調,ALK將證明“事實勝于雄辯”。

目前,英國乃至歐洲大多數國家的足球管理部門,尚未對限制俱樂部杠桿收購出臺任何規定,這就給投資者搞“四兩撥千金”的杠桿收購、攫取歐洲優質足球資產留出了操作空間。如果一切都像ALK公司計劃的那樣,像伯恩利這樣的俱樂部倒還可以做到可持續化運營。但如果“計劃不如變化快”,那么歷史上已經有充分證據表明,為什么球迷有理由為這些俱樂部的長期健康和生存能力感到緊張。(財富中文網)

譯者:樸成奎

元旦前夕,英國伯恩利足球俱樂部宣布,美國私募股權公司ALK Capital已經收購了該足球隊的多數股權。消息一出,外界都認為這對伯恩利俱樂部是件大好事。近年來,伯恩利俱樂部雖然預算有限,但球隊上下信心堅定,球風穩健,其成績在激烈的英超聯賽中已經算是超水平發揮了。人們希望,ALK Capital公司的收購,能為伯恩利俱樂部帶來更多的財務保障——首先可以解決球隊缺錢引進球員的問題,只有引入有實力的球員,球隊整體實力才能上一個臺階。

到目前為止,伯恩利的球迷對新球員可以說是望眼欲穿。一月份的轉會窗口期已經關閉了,但伯恩利俱樂部并未簽下任何新球員。眼看賽季過半,俱樂部的排名還處在聯賽下游。所以球迷不禁會想,ALK的收購,究竟能給這家俱樂部帶來什么新氣象?

上周二,英國《衛報》有關這筆收購的最新細節。這筆1.7億英鎊(約合2.31億美元)的收購款包含大量債務,屬于一種杠桿收購。據報道,ALK的負責人是前花旗集團高管艾倫?佩斯。在這筆收購款里,有6000萬英鎊(約合8200萬美元)是從億萬富翁邁克爾?戴爾的私人投資公司借來的貸款。這筆貸款是用伯恩利俱樂部的收入擔保的,它現在轉到了俱樂部的帳上,貸款年利率雖未披露,但據信超過了9%。此外,據說ALK還從伯恩利俱樂部自己的賬上拿出了4000萬英鎊(5400萬美元),支付給了俱恩利俱樂部的前老板作為頭期款。這樣一來,ALK真正自掏腰包的部分其實是很少的。

從最近公布的財報看,伯恩利公司并沒有欠什么外債,而且賬上還有4200萬英鎊的現金。而被ALK杠桿收購后,它的資產負債表反而變難看了,俱樂部背上了沉重的債務包袱,未來財政狀況更加捉襟見肘也說不定。 (本月早些時候有消息稱,ALK已經同意,如果它未能支付三筆余款,就將把俱樂部交還給原老板。)艾倫?佩斯則為這筆收購做了辯解,他稱這筆收購是“絕對合理和可持續的”,ALK是“為了長期目的”而收購伯恩利的。

ALK的發言人向《財富》提交了一份伯恩利俱樂部的聲明。聲明表示:“伯恩利足球俱樂部的現金儲備在收購后仍然保持良好,與其他英超俱樂部相比,處于一個較好的水平。在新東家的領導下,它將處于一個能夠蓬勃發展的有利地位?!?/p>

近年來,到歐洲收購足球俱樂部的私募公司不在少數,而且其中很多都是美國公司,他們大肆收購歐洲各地的球隊,都看準了足球這項運動在全世界日益增長的吸引力,和利潤豐厚的電視轉播合同。作為全球最激動人心、競爭最激烈的聯賽,英超更是吸引了無數球迷的關注——尤其是它的電視轉播合同令其他歐洲聯賽相形見絀。2015年,阿波羅全球管理公司(Apollo Global Management)的喬希?哈里斯和黑石集團的戴維?布利策聯手收購了南倫敦的水晶宮足球俱樂部的控股權——這兩人還擁有NBA的費城76人隊和NHL的新澤西魔鬼隊的控股權。最近,硅谷巨頭銀湖投資也斥資5億美元,收購了總部在阿布扎比的城市足球集團(City Football Group)的少數股權,該集團在全球擁有多家足球俱樂部,其中就包括英超的曼城俱樂部。

不過,美國人對英國俱樂部的投資并非總是成功的。美國人的這種過度杠桿化的資本游戲隱藏了很大風險,一旦爆雷,甚至會在球迷中引發騷亂,并且導致俱樂部陷入嚴重的財務困境,這種事并非沒有先例。在ALK對伯恩利俱樂部的收購中,這家公司的私募特性,就讓一些人想到了過去幾起失敗的交易,不禁一些球迷和觀察人士對這筆交易有了“做成夾生飯”的擔心。

利物浦、曼聯殷鑒不遠

被杠桿收購折騰得最慘痛的案例,就是英超的利物浦足球俱樂部,它是歐洲足球史上最榮耀的俱樂部之一,也是目前的衛冕冠軍。2007年,美國投資者湯姆???怂购蛦讨?吉列特收購了利物浦,結果使該俱樂部背上了數億英鎊的債務。在金融危機后的信貸緊縮時期,俱樂部的老板們發現自己已經無力融資,結果導致了俱樂部的財富縮水,引發了利物浦球迷的大規??棺h,最終將俱樂部推到了破產的邊緣。最終,法庭只好下令將利物浦出售給了現任老板(也是美國公司)——總部位于波士頓的芬威體育集團(Fenway Sports Group),這才將利物浦從破產邊緣拯救了出來。

另一個反面典型是曼聯,和利物浦一樣,它也是英超最大最成功的俱樂部之一。它現在的老板也是美國投資者——格雷澤家族。格雷澤家族還擁有NFL的坦帕灣海盜隊(Tampa Bay Buccaners)。2005年,格雷澤家族舉債5億英鎊抵押俱樂部的資產,用的是跟ALK同樣的套路,為此它需要每年支付幾千萬英鎊的利息。作為世界上最財大氣粗的俱樂部之一,曼聯是有足夠的收入來支付這些費用的,同時依然能夠打造出一支高收入和高競爭力的球隊。雖然如此,但格雷澤家族的財務策略——比如在高額債務讓俱樂部的財力持續縮水的情況下,格雷澤家族依然為自己發放高額分紅等,仍引發了球迷的不安,甚至引起了英國政府官員的擔憂。

當然,伯恩利俱樂部被收購后的債務水平,還遠遠不及這兩大英超巨頭的杠桿水平??墒遣骼氖杖胍策h遠比不上曼聯和利物浦,更何況受疫情影響,各俱樂部現在都是勒緊褲腰帶過日子,由于球迷沒法進入球場看球,英超各俱樂部的損失累計已達數十億美元。另外,如果伯恩利俱樂部的運氣不佳,成績滑落到了20個俱樂部里的最后三位,那就難逃降級命運,屆時它還有沒有能力還上這樣一筆債務,只怕要打上一個大大的問號。如果這種最悲觀的情景出現了,伯恩利俱樂部只有變賣家產一條路可走,包括賣掉隊中最優秀的球員,甚至是賣掉俱樂部旗下擁有138年歷史的Turf Moor球場。

在ALK提供的俱樂部聲明中,伯恩利俱樂啊的新老板表示,他們的財務模式“考慮到了所有的經濟情況,包括球場以內和球場之外的情況?!辈⒈硎?,ALK將“致力于未來幾年對俱樂部、對球隊和球場設施進行投資”。它還特別強調,ALK將證明“事實勝于雄辯”。

目前,英國乃至歐洲大多數國家的足球管理部門,尚未對限制俱樂部杠桿收購出臺任何規定,這就給投資者搞“四兩撥千金”的杠桿收購、攫取歐洲優質足球資產留出了操作空間。如果一切都像ALK公司計劃的那樣,像伯恩利這樣的俱樂部倒還可以做到可持續化運營。但如果“計劃不如變化快”,那么歷史上已經有充分證據表明,為什么球迷有理由為這些俱樂部的長期健康和生存能力感到緊張。(財富中文網)

譯者:樸成奎

When Burnley Football Club announced, on New Year’s Eve, that American private equity firm ALK Capital had acquired a majority stake in the soccer team, it was viewed as a boon for the club from the modest town in northwest England. Burnley have been consistent overachievers in England’s fiercely competitive Premier League in recent years, getting by on a limited budget and a determined, pragmatic style of play. The ALK takeover, it was hoped, would provide added financial security—and a much-needed injection of cash to buy players who could take the team to the next level.

So far, Burnley fans have yet to see those players; the club didn’t make any new signings in the just-closed January transfer window and finds itself battling at the lower end of the league standings with less than half of the season remaining. Instead, fans are left to ponder what the club may have just gotten itself into amid new revelations about ALK’s acquisition.

On Tuesday, the Guardian reported fresh details about the private equity takeover—a heavily indebted, £170 million ($231 million) transaction that was effectively a leveraged buyout of the soccer club. ALK, led by former Citigroup executive Alan Pace, is said to have financed the deal with a roughly £60 million ($82 million) loan from billionaire Michael Dell’s private investment firm; that loan is backed by Burnley’s own revenues and is now on the club’s books, and comes with an undisclosed annual interest rate believed to be north of 9%. What’s more, ALK reportedly funded the remainder of its initial payment to Burnley’s previous owners with up to £40 million ($54 million) from the club’s own cash reserves, with the private equity firm itself putting down only a sliver of the money upfront.

Whereas Burnley was very recently a debt-free entity with £42 million in cash on hand, according to its most recently publicized financial statements, the ALK deal has likely left its balance sheet in a much poorer state—with the club left holding the bag should things take a turn for the worse. (Earlier this month, it emerged that ALK had agreed to simply hand the club back to its former owners if it failed to make three remaining, deferred payments on its purchase.) Pace, for his part, has defended the transaction that netted him Burnley as “absolutely reasonable and sustainable,” adding that ALK is “here for the long haul.”

“Burnley Football Club’s cash reserves remain in a healthy position following the takeover and compare favorably to other Premier League clubs,” according to a club statement provided to Fortune by an ALK spokesperson. “It is well-placed to thrive under its new ownership.”

Private equity players—many of them American investors—have flocked to European soccer in recent years, snapping up clubs across the continent in a bid to capitalize on the global game’s ever-growing appeal and its ever-lucrative television contracts. With a reputation as perhaps the most exciting and competitive league in the world, the Premier League has drawn outsize attention—especially as the league’s TV deals have grown to dwarf those of its European counterparts. In 2015, Josh Harris of Apollo Global Management and David Blitzer of Blackstone Group teamed to take a controlling stake in South London’s Crystal Palace F.C. (the pair also own the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils). More recently, Silicon Valley behemoth Silver Lake Partners forked out $500 million for a minority interest in Abu Dhabi–backed City Football Group, whose global portfolio of soccer clubs includes England’s Manchester City F.C.

But the history of American investment in English clubs is a checkered one, complete with over-leveraged takeovers that took a turn for the worse, sparked unrest among supporters, and often left the clubs in question in dire financial straits. In the case of ALK’s acquisition of Burnley, the nature of the private equity firm’s buyout has evoked memories of past deals gone wrong—raising concerns among some fans and observers that the club has bitten off more than it can chew.

Liverpool, Man United as cautionary tales

The most infamous example of how an ill-fated leveraged buyout can bring a club to its knees is Liverpool F.C., one of the most decorated clubs in the history of European soccer and the current defending Premier League champions. In 2007, American investors Tom Hicks and George Gillett acquired Liverpool in a deal that saddled the club with hundreds of millions of pounds of debt. When, in the post–financial crisis credit crunch, the owners found themselves unable to refinance that debt, it led to a downturn in the club’s fortunes that sparked major protests among Liverpool fans and eventually drove the club to the brink of insolvency. In the end, only a court-ordered sale to the club’s current (and also American) owners, Boston-based Fenway Sports Group, saved Liverpool from that brink.

Yet another, ongoing concern is the situation at Manchester United F.C., which, like Liverpool, holds a privileged place as one of England’s biggest and most successful clubs. That club is also owned by American investors, the Glazer family (who also own the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers); when the Glazers bought their controlling stake in United in 2005, they borrowed more than £500 million against the club’s assets—a level of indebtedness that commands tens of millions of pounds in annual interest payments. As one of the richest clubs in world soccer, United has the revenues to make those payments and still put out a highly paid, competitive team on the field. Still, the Glazers’ financial tactics—including paying out lucrative dividends to themselves while the club’s massive debts continue to drain its coffers—have also spurred fan unrest and even raised concerns from British government officials.

Of course, Burnley’s debts post-ALK acquisition don’t come near the levels assumed by those larger English giants after their leveraged takeovers. But neither do Burnley’s revenues—particularly at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the sport economically, keeping fans out of stadiums and costing clubs billions of dollars in lost revenues. Should Burnley’s luck in the Premier League run out (if it finishes in the bottom three out of 20 clubs, the team would be relegated to England’s significantly less lucrative second division), it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether the club would be able to service the debt accrued as a result of the ALK deal. A nightmare scenario would see Burnley have to sell off assets—including its best players or even Turf Moor, its 138-year-old, club-owned stadium—in order to do so.

In the club statement provided by ALK, Burnley’s new owners say their financial model “considers all economic circumstances, both on and off the football pitch.” They add that the private equity firm is “committed to investing in this club, the team, and facilities over the coming years,” and note that ALK’s “actions will speak louder than any words.”

In the meantime, English soccer’s governing authorities, like most of their European counterparts, have yet to impose any rules curbing leveraged takeovers of their clubs. Investors are able to rush into the sport in search of glory and gains, picking up clubs with little money down and lots of debt dumped onto the clubs themselves. Should things go according to plan, clubs like Burnley should still be able to operate in a sustainable manner, just as Pace suggests. But if they don’t, there’s plenty of historical evidence as to why fans should feel nervous about the long-term health and viability of their beloved clubs.

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