Benchmark Takes Setanta Stake

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In a move that could have a major ripple effect on the race for the rights to the hottest TV sports property in the United Kingdon, London-based venture capital firm Benchmark Capital Europe has become the largest shareholder in international sports broadcaster Setanta Sports Group.

Setanta is expected to use the proceeds of the investment to enter the bidding for the valuable English Premier League soccer rights in the United Kingdom. News Corp.'s British Sky Broadcasting currently has the package of live games, which looks to become available beginning in 2007.

Reports put the deal for 32% of Setanta at approximately 30 million Euros (US $35.8 million). Under the arrangement, Benchmark Capital Europe General Partner Ynon Kreiz joins the board of Setanta. 

Setanta currently operates seven channels in seven countries, including a U.S. digital network that launched in April and shows mostly international soccer and rugby. It is currently carried by DirecTV as a separate, premium channel.

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