News Corp. Buying ESPN Star Sports Stake

Disney seeks independent options in Asia
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News Corp. has agreed to buy ESPN’s 50% equity interest in Asian broadcaster ESPN Star Sports. The transaction will allow News Corp. to operate the business after 16 years as a joint venture and gives ESPN parent Walt Disney Co. more flexibility in doing business in the region. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

ESPN Star Sports will continue to be jointly managed by the two companies until the transaction closes, but the owners announced that Peter Hutton will become managing director, succeeding Manu Sawhney, who has held the post since 2007. Hutton is now senior VP of sports for Fox International Channels.

“News Corporation's acquisition of the interest of ESS that we did not already own continues the program of simplifying our operating model, consolidating our affiliate ownership structures, and furthers our commitment to delivering incredible sports programming to consumers across the globe, and particularly enhancing our position in sports programming in emerging markets,” James Murdoch, deputy COO and chairman & CEO International of News Corp., said in a statement.

John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman, Disney Media Networks, said that after 16 years of jointly running ESPN Star Sports, ESPN decided to look for future opportunities independently. “We are extremely proud of our role in building ESS into what it is today, and now with the growing digital landscape in Asia,” he said. “We look forward to continuing to serve Asian sports fans through ESPN-branded digital businesses like ESPNCricinfo, the leading digital cricket brand in the world, ESPNFC and ESPN Mobile.”

ESPN Star Sports operates 28 networks in 24 countries in Asia. It also owns a broadband network and an event management group.

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