Soccer-Investment firm KKR buys 10 percent share in Hertha-Reuters

(Reuters) – Buyout group KKR has agreed to take a roughly 10 percent stake in the capital’s top division soccer club Hertha Berlin in a deal worth about 60 million euros that will boost the club’s finances, the two sides said on Friday.

KKR will invest around 61 million euros ($82.74 million) in total for a 9.7 percent stake, taking steps to strengthen Hertha’s finances and to buy back some marketing and catering rights that the club sold to plug holes in its balance sheet, officials said.

“This is a groundbreaking deal for Hertha,” Hertha president Werner Gegenbauer said. “For years the board had a target to find a strategic partner. Today this wish becomes reality.”

This is one of the rare occasions where a major foreign investor has taken a share in a German club with ownership rules forbidding a single investor controlling more than half of a club’s shares.

German companies Adidas and Audi own similar nine percent stakes in Bayern Munich and Russia’s Gazprom has a long-standing sponsorship partnership with Schalke 04.

“This partnership with KKR as a major investor is a quantum leap for the club and its financial side,” said Hertha CEO Michael Preetz, whose club has twice been relegated in the past four seasons.

For two seasons Berlin was the only European capital without a first division football club in soccer-mad Germany.

The KKR investment is aimed at maximising Hertha’s potential and the company will not try to influence sport-related issues such as engaging players, it said.

“We are delighted to be able to support Hertha as a partner and we see clear potential to strengthen the club nationally and internationally,” said Johannes Huth, European head of KKR.

“The great and loyal fan community, the unique development programme and the fact that it is the German capital’s leading soccer club make Hertha an attractive partner.”

The German Bundesliga has been booming in the past few years with the league posting a ninth straight annual turnover record days ago with 2.17 billion euros of turnover for 2012-13.