Blaugranagram delves deep into the financials behind Barcelona’s levers and their newly-refreshed affiliation to Jaume Roures and MediaPro, who will manage VAR from 2024/25 to 2027/28.
In order to best understand the gravity of this situation, we have to go back to the 2010/2011 season. At the time, Sandro Rosell was elected club president, taking over from Joan Laporta with 60% of the members’ votes.
Enter MediaPro. The company is audiovisual-focused and were founded back in 1994 by Jaume Roures and Tatxo Benet. In the 2010/11 season, MediaPro were solely responsible for the club’s TV channel, Barça TV. They faciliated all production and were the ones held responsible for the TV channel; this cost the club more money annually than the in-house footballing academy La Masía. Taking note of this, a good while later, the club wanted to move more towards web streaming, a medium growing in popularity as time went on.
The club thus decided not to renew their deal with MediaPro, who, subsequently, surrendered control of exclusive club TV rights as well as Barça TV.
In 2019, all LaLiga clubs decided to sell all TV rights in one bundle deal. Barcelona, as the only club, decided not to do so, and instead kept a deal with Telefónica for the channel rights and audiovisual production regarding the club. Thus, Barça Studios was born.
At the same time, Telefónica created another company, TBSC Barcelona Producciones. This company was separate from Telefónica’s holding company, meaning the holding company was not to be held liable for any incurring losses. Conveniently, TBSC only had one client: FC Barcelona; it also only had one purpose which was to ensure Barça TV stayed alive. The separate company has now been put in under Telefónica Spain as a subsidiary, as confirmed by Telefónica in their annual report by 2022, following an audit conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
In 2022, Joan Laporta was re-elected as club president, taking over from Josep Bartomeu, who had taken over from Sandro Rosell.
For Laporta, one of his top priorities financially was to get rid of this boulder without having to ‘re-loan’ any rights back to MediaPro. In doing this, he killed off Barça TV at the end of 2022. This came after rumors of ‘slave-like’ working conditions with overtime not being financially accounted for, despite ‘endless’ work days.
The employees of Barça TV were not covered by neither the Telefónica agreement nor by that of the club, leaving them virtually stranded in terms of legal compensation for their sub-par ‘inhumane’ working conditions, states a report from El Triangle.
A financial company was founded in 2022 with ‘coincidential’ timing: Bridgeburg Invest, with two people at the helm: Jaume Roures and Tatxo Benet. The company is legally considered a subsidiary of Barça Studios established in 2019. Bridgeburg since turned into the holding company of Barça Vision, the club’s platform for production and marketing for the club’s digital content, including that related to Web3, the blockchain and Metaverse.
The club had sold shares to Sixth Street as part of the financial lever constellation, and had accounted for 667 million euros in sales. At the time, the club was under scrutiny from LaLiga through an audit, and the audit proved something not in favor of the club: only 517 million euros were received.
In their defense, the club claimed that the remaining 150 million euros were received through a separate venture: Locksley Investments.
LaLiga deemed the 150 million euros to be injected artificially and would per reports thus not allow the club to count this towards their salarial budget for the 2022/23 season.
Interestingly, a company named Locksley Investments, as confirmed to Blaugranagram by Dun & Bradstreet, is located in Victoria, Australia. A former company by the name of Locksley Investments had a short-lived stint from January 2000 to January 2002 in the Bahamas, with ties to Switzerland. Whether these are linked to the club or each other, are, at this time, unclear, but the canniness is notable.
During the same year, as part of the club’s preparation for the summer transfer window, Barcelona sold two major stakes as part of an attempt to improve the club’s financial stance amid its crisis. Two 24.5% shares in Barça Studios were sold 100 million euros each; one was sold to Socios, the club’s primary Web3/blockchain partner, the other was sold to Orpheus Media.
Orpheus is a production company run by Jaume Roures, who already owns Bridgeburg Invest, an existing Barça Studios subsidiary. Orpheus’ shares are reportedly unpaid. Bridgeburg Invest also sold 9.8% of their shares in Barça Studios to German company Libero for 40 million euros. Libero’s shares are also, reportedly, unpaid. Libero bought their shares after the LaLiga audit’s involvement and subsequent rejection of the Sixth Street lever.
In 2023, the club entered a so-called BCA, a business combination agreement, with Mountain & Co. I. Acquisition Corp, a blank-check company in place to acquire assets through mergers. The deal was in place to merge audiovisual content and Barça Studios (founded in 2019) into one unit: Barça Media.
Shortly after, in October, Jaume Roures left MediaPro, with Tatxo Benet remaining as one of the two founders in the company.
The affiliation to Jaume Roures is clear, given the club’s historical dealings with the Catalan mogul and his vocal support for club president Joan Laporta during the Negreira scandal.
The affiliation has had more fuel added to the fire as the previously Roures-owned and now Benet-owned MediaPro has been announced as the company managing VAR in LaLiga from the upcoming season (2024/25) until 2027/28 following a cumbersome tender process. MediaPro take over from Hawk-Eye who have been managing VAR since 2019.