China fund takes control of Spanish football TV rights giant

Chinese investment fund Orient Hontai Capital has taken control of Mediapro, best known for owning television rights to the Spanish and Italian football leagues, the Spanish media group said Friday.

China fund takes control of Spanish football TV rights giant
Seville supporters watch a match on television in a bar. File photo: AFP

The fund bought a 53.5 percent stake in Imagina, a holding company that includes Mediapro, which also produces films and series, and Globomedia, another media producer, for one billion euros ($1.2 billion).

The agreement gives Orient Hontai control over lucrative international television distribution rights for Spain's La Liga, as well as the Italian league's domestic TV rights.

In Spain, Mediapro has the rights for the Champions League and eight out of every 10 La Liga matches.

“The agreement will give the group access to the emerging market in China,” Mediapro added in a statement.

Mediapro also has television distribution rights for the International Basketball Federation in Spain.

Apart from sports, it has produced films such as Midnight in Paris and other Woody Allen movies, and television series including The Young Pope starring Jude Law.

The president of the group Jaume Roures, based in Barcelona, is an influential media man in Spain.

Fervently pro-independence, he is thought to be close to Catalan separatist leaders.

He owns 12 percent of Mediapro, as does Tatxo Benet, another founder.

British advertising giant WPP owns the remaining 22.5 percent.   

Both Roures and Benet will remain at the head of the group.   

“The acquisition of Imagina will not only allow us to introduce advanced audiovisual production technology in China, but also open up new persectives for exchange and cooperation between China, Spain and Latin America in the fields of content, culture, sports,” said Tony Ma, head of Orient Hontai.

The Chinese fund specialises in investments in the technology and media sectors.

READ MORE: China's troubled Wanda sells stake in Atletico Madrid


Spain thrown out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

Spain have been thrown out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup for fielding an ineligible South African-born player during the qualifying stages and will be replaced by Romania, World Rugby announced on Thursday.

Spain thrown out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

“Subject to Spain’s right of appeal, the 10-point deduction applied to the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification table means that Romania will qualify as Europe 2 into Pool B replacing Spain,” read the statement.

Portugal — who Spain beat to seal their place in the global showpiece in France next year — replace Romania in the Final Qualification Tournament taking place in November 2022.

“Spain has a right of appeal within 14 days of the date of the full written decision of the committee,” read the statement.

According to Spanish media in March, the player under investigation was South African-born prop Gavin van den Berg, who has been playing in Spain since 2018.

He played twice against the Netherlands, in 2020 and 2021, in qualifiers, but he may not seemingly have served the three years of residency needed to become eligible under World Rugby rules.

Spain, Romania and Belgium were all sanctioned in 2018 for having fielded ineligible players, opening the way for Russia to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.