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Volume 6 No. 214


Former Barcelona presidential candidate Agusti Benedito has "called for a no-vote when club members vote" on a proposed €600M ($823M) Camp Nou renovation on Saturday, and he "wants a new election before any such huge decision in the club’s future is taken," according to Dermot Corrigan of ESPN. The project, "first announced" by former Barcelona President Sandro Rosell, would see the stadium "expanded to seat 105,000 spectators and also include new 'Espai Barca' corporate hospitality facilities and upgrades to the arenas used by the club's other sports teams" by '21. The referendum, "in which 118,578 Barca socios are eligible to vote," will take place before Barcelona's La Liga match against Real Betis. Benedito -- who "came second to Rosell in the last presidential election" in '10 -- said that not enough "details of the investment being planned have been made public." Benedito: "We are voting for smoke -- there is nothing concrete. How are we capable of weighing up €400 million on something undefined? It seems impossible to me to make a budget without the technical details. You could also do a reform costing €200 million. This is a dangerous blank check." Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu has said that €200M ($274M) of the cost of the project will "come from the sale of limited 'naming rights' to the new ground, but Benedito sees that as further evidence of the current board ceding control of the club to its Qatari commercial backers." Benedito added, "There is a propaganda campaign, without any debate. There is a blatant hiding of information. With the subject of Qatar, we have already seen how they act. [The board] deny that the 'title rights' are going there, but I do not believe that. Qatar puts into question our model and values. Conversations we have had both here and in Qatar suggest that they are behind this reform" (ESPN, 4/3). The EFE reported a group of Barcelona's members "expressed discomfort with the project, encouraged members to vote 'no' and branded it an imprudent project." The three-member group, which included Xavier Sáez, Aniol Colillas and Gabriel Rex, requested "from the club the use of one its auditoriums to promote a debate with one theme: saying 'no' to the reform and opposing the Barcelona's board's campaign to convince members to vote in favor of the project." Rex said, "The current board, which can make the club captive with this project, criticized a reform that the previous board tried to pass that would have cost less than half of what the current project will cost" (EFE, 4/2).

The owner of health club chain 24 Hour Fitness "is close to selling the business in a deal that would mark the dissolution of Forstmann Little, the private equity empire that for two decades set the tone of the modern buyout industry," according to Ed Hammond of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Fortsmann Little "has hired bankers" and is hoping to raise close to $2B from the sale of the gym. Fortsmann Little bought the chain for $1.6B in '05. The group "has met with banks in recent weeks to discuss a sale." The process "is at an early stage." An exit would effectively signal the end of Fortsmann Little, once among the world's largest private equity funds, which sold IMG last year (FT, 4/3).