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Volume 7 No. 85

Finance

UEFA launced an investigation into PSG after it signed Neymar (l) and Kylian Mbappé last summer.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Paris St. Germain must sell €60M ($70.4M) worth of players by the end of this month to satisfy so-called "financial fair play rules," with failure to do so leading to "potential sanctions including being kicked out of European competition," according to Murad Ahmed of the FINANCIAL TIMES. UEFA last year launched a formal investigation into PSG after it paid a record €222M to acquire Brazilian forward Neymar from Barcelona. French int'l Kylian Mbappé was also signed on loan from Ligue 1 side Monaco -- with a potential transfer fee of €200M. UEFA on Wednesday announced it "closed" its investigation into the club's finances but added that it is "yet to make conclusions about the results" from the '18 financial year, a period that includes the Neymar and Mbappé transfers. A person close to the organization said that the club has been informed that it must make €60M "of player sales by the end of June to satisfy FFP requirements, designed to force clubs to break even." PSG did not immediately respond for requests for comment. UEFA also investigated sponsorship contracts struck by PSG, which was bought in '12 by Qatar Sports Investments (FT, 6/13).

Two hedge funds, including one "whose senior partner was George Osborne’s best man," are reportedly among "potential backers" of the company hoping to buy out British bookmaker the Tote, according to Mark Souster of the LONDON TIMES. Peter Davies, a close friend of the former U.K. chancellor, manages the U.K. operation for Lansdowne Partners, based in Mayfair. It has £12B ($16B) under its control. Davies, who has horses with Venetia Williams, "has been described as one of the 30 most influential men in the City of London." The "second heavyweight likely investor" is Toscafund, run by Johnny de la Hey and Martin Hughes, who are "keen supporters of racing." De la Hey has 16 horses with Paul Nicholls. Toscafund CEO Hughes' wealth in '16 was estimated to be more than £500M. The investors have held talks with the Alizeti consortium, founded and led by former Merrill Lynch trader Alex Frost. Alizeti has paid about £25M ($33.3M) for a quarter of the Tote, which is currently owned by Betfred (LONDON TIMES, 6/13).

WPP defended its handling of former CEO Martin Sorrell's "abrupt departure at a tense shareholder meeting where almost 30% of investors staged a pay revolt," according to Davies, Monaghan & Wearden of the London GUARDIAN. WPP Chair Roberto Quarta said that the advertising group received "very clear" legal advice that Sorrell "was entitled to retain" £20M ($26.7M) of future share awards "despite allegations of personal misconduct." But "disgruntled shareholders," frustrated by the company's "repeated failure to explain why Sorrell had suddenly left," used their annual vote to make clear their "dissatisfaction." Including abstentions, 29.5% "opposed WPP's pay report" and 16.6% voted against Quarta's re-election as chair. Quarta said that Sorrell would only have lost the share entitlement if "gross misconduct" could be established, "and the board was advised by lawyers that it could not" (GUARDIAN, 6/13). The BBC's Russell Hotten reported the shareholder votes were announced at the company's annual meeting, where Quarta "defended the advertising giant's role" in Sorrell's exit. Quarta, who faced criticism that he did not "adequately prepare" for Sorrell's departure, told the annual shareholders' meeting that the "board acted appropriately throughout." One shareholder asked Quarta why, in his speech, he did not thank Sorrell for his service to the company. Quarta "did not reply, but moved on to another question" (BBC, 6/13).

REVENUE DROP: THE DRUM's John McCarthy reported WPP announced its global revenue for the first four months of the year was down 3.4% year-on-year to £4.82B ($6.43B). Constant currency revenue was up 2.7% and "like-for-like revenue was up 1.4%." Net sales (now reported as revenue less pass-through costs) were down 5% to £3.97B ($5.3B) for the year. Growth was reported in western continental Europe, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe as well as Asia Pacific. North America, meanwhile, was noted as a "difficult" market, especially in the "advertising and data investment management businesses" (THE DRUM, 6/13).

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: In London, Alex Ralph reported the "acrimonious departure" of Sorrell "raised uncertainty over the future of a substantial shareholding in the company held by his family’s charitable trust." The JMCMRJ Sorrell Foundation owns almost 5.5 million shares in WPP worth £68M ($90.7M), representing 0.4% of the FTSE 100 company’s share capital and "making it a top 30 shareholder, filings show." The charity, registered at the family’s Belgravia home, "uses dividend income to invest in charitable causes," focusing on "education, poverty alleviation, health standard improvement and support of inter-religious dialogue." It made grants of £1.4M ($1.9M) last year (LONDON TIMES, 6/13).