After 16 years of partnership, ESPN and Star Sports in India have split with News Corporation buying ESPN’s 50 per cent equity stake in ESPN Star Sports (ESS).
The deal will see News Corporation to own and operate all of the ESS businesses while providing ESPN more independence and flexibility in future support of The Walt Disney Company’s overall efforts in Asia.
The transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals and ESS will continue to be jointly managed by the two companies until the transaction closes.
“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,” said James Murdoch, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Chairman & CEO International, News Corporation.
“After 16 years jointly managing ESS, we have decided to independently pursue future opportunities in Asia,” said John Skipper, President of ESPN and Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks. “We are extremely proud of our role in building ESS into what it is today, and now with the growing digital landscape in Asia, 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.”
News Corporation and ESPN have also announced that Manu Sawhney, Managing Director of ESS, who has led ESS through significant growth over the last 16 years, will transition his role of Managing Director to Peter Hutton, currently SVP of Sports for FOX International Channels (FIC).
“In his 16 years with the Company, Manu has been a key architect of ESS’s growth, and his contributions since its inception have helped ESS become a leading sports media Company in Asia, bringing world class events — from the ICC Cricket World Cup to the London 2012 Olympic Games — to fans across the region. He led ESS’s expansion to 24 countries across multiple platforms and networks, including launching STAR Cricket, ESPN HD, STAR Cricket HD, ESPNEWS and ESPN Player. We are very grateful to him for his significant contributions to the Company during his time in India and Singapore,” said Jan Koeppen, COO Europe and Asia, News Corporation and Russell Wolff, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, ESPN International.
Sawhney said, “It has been a privilege to serve News Corporation and ESPN at ESS for 16 exciting years. I have had an opportunity to grow with the Company and work with an amazing group of people during my tenure, expanding our business to 28 networks across television, online, broadband and mobile. As the organization begins a new chapter under new ownership, I have decided to move on after the transition and I am looking forward to the next exciting phase of my career.”
“I am excited to take on this new role,” Hutton said. “I look forward to working with the ESS team to consolidate ESS’s leadership position in sports broadcasting in Asia, and to continue the Company’s record of broadcasting excellence in serving sports fans.”