Football Club Barcelona’s members have approved a plan to sell portions of the team’s television rights and future revenues from merchandise and licensing in hopes of injecting €600 million ($631 million) immediately into the debt-ridden Spanish club.
Club president Joan Laporta said that the two measures were necessary to “generate profits and have positive equity” after two seasons of being unable to make major signings due to crippling debt that ballooned at one point to €1.3 billion (nearly $1.37 billion).
Selected club members, called delegates, voted late Thursday online to overwhelming support the two financial measures presented by Laporta.
The first is the sale of 49% of the company Barcelona operates to negotiate its licensing rights and merchandising. The club hopes to get between €200-300 million ($210-315 million) in return. Laporta said he will only listen to offers that include a repurchase option so that the club can take back full control of those assets at a later date.
The second measure is the sale of up to 25% of income from TV rights from Spanish league games for 25 years, for which the club said it hopes to be able to earn around €450 million ($473 million).
Laporta compared his ailing club to a Formula One race car in need for a complete overhaul. He said that these two financial operations will mean “that the F1 car can leave the pits and return to the front row of the grid to compete and win again.” Laporta and other board members did not reveal any details on offers or potential buyers when asked by delegates.
The financial moves by Barcelona come months after it refused, along with Real Madrid, to participate in an investment plan by fund CVC Capital Partners secured by the Spanish league to help clubs after the pandemic.
The huge salaries and transfer fees paid by Laporta’s predecessor, Josep Bartomeu, are blamed for ruining Barcelona’s finances. The revenue losses caused by the pandemic only made the situation more dramatic, to the point that the club was unable to resign all-time scorer Lionel Messi last summer even when he was willing to reduce his wages.
Barcelona finished last season without a title.
The league has shrunk Barcelona’s salary cap to seven times smaller than Real Madrid due to the team’s wrecked finances. It has not made any significant signings this off-season and is working to get its players to take another pay cut.