Rights-holders suffer missed payments as MP & Silva in “state of paralysis”

The MP & Silva agency has defaulted on payments to multiple sports rights-holders, TV Sports Markets understands, raising questions about its future.

As reported exclusively by TV Sports Markets yesterday, the agency has missed scheduled payments to England’s Premier League and the European Handball Federation, among others. MP & Silva is also in arbitration with Fifa, football’s global governing body, over its advisory contract for rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Italy.

The difficulties come just over two years after Chinese companies Baofeng Technology and Everbright Securities acquired a 65-per-cent stake in the company, valuing the business at $1.1bn (€941m).

MP & Silva is said by multiple informed sources to be in a “state of paralysis”, with senior management, under president and chief executive Seamus O’Brien, having waited five months to discover whether Baofeng and Everbright will give a green light to new business plans.

The scale of the agency’s outstanding commitments to sports bodies is unclear, but it could represent a huge blow to several sports rights-holders which have signed lucrative deals with the agency. In most cases, it is expected that unsold rights would revert to the original rights-holders and could be re-sold.

MP & Silva was set up in 2004 by Italian entrepreneurs Riccardo Silva, Andrea Radrizzani and Carlo Pozzali, who remained minority shareholders after the May 2016 sale and have since had no operational involvement. Baofeng and Everbright are responsible for signing off all strategic business decisions.

The agency began by selling international media rights to a handful of clubs from Italian football’s Serie A and Serie B and grew rapidly through an aggressive acquisition strategy, building a portfolio of over 70 rights-holders. In October 2017, the agency lost international rights to Serie A to rival agency IMG. The property is understood to have been one of the biggest contributors to MP & Silva’s ebitda.

MP & Silva declined to comment when contacted about this article.

Riccardo Silva owns London-based Silva International Investments, whose portfolio includes majority shares in US football club Miami FC and SportBusiness Group, the producer of this news service, and a minority stake in the MP & Silva sports marketing agency, controlled by Chinese firms Baofeng and Everbright.