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News Corporation unit to buy ESPN's 50 per cent equity interest in ESS

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | June 06, 2012
With this move, News Corporation will fully own and operate ESS businesses in Asia.

James Murdoch

John Skipper

Peter Hutton

Manu Sawhney

News Corporation and ESPN have entered into a definitive agreement under which a unit of News Corporation will buy ESPN's 50 per cent equity interest in ESPN-STAR Sports (ESS). With this transaction, News Corporation units will be able 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.

James Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer, chairman and CEO, International News Corporation, says in an official statement, "News Corporation's acquisition of the interest of ESS that we did not already own, continues the programme of simplifying our operating model, consolidating our affiliate ownership structures, and furthers our commitment to deliver incredible sports programming to consumers across the globe, and particularly enhancing our position in sports programming in emerging markets."

"After 16 years of jointly managing ESS, we have decided to independently pursue future opportunities in Asia. 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," says John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman, Disney Media Networks.

Additionally, as a part of the development, News Corporation and ESPN have further announced that Peter Hutton, currently senior vice-president of sports for FOX International Channels (FIC), will take over as managing director of ESS, a position that is currently held by Manu Sawhney. While Hutton will report to the ESS board, Sawhney will stay with the company until August 31 to work with Hutton on a smooth transition.

Sawhney joined ESS's marketing department in India in 1996 and went on to head its India business for four years, before shifting to Singapore as head of programming, acquisition and marketing. He was promoted as managing director in 2007. During his career at ESS, he has been responsible for various functions across the company, including sales, distribution, programming, acquisition, marketing and network presentation.

Hutton joined FOX International Channels Sports in 2011 after 20 years in the international sports television business. Earlier, he has worked at Broad Reach Media, a media consultancy firm. Before that, Hutton was at Ten Sports in Dubai (from 2002-2009), where he eventually served as chief operating officer. From 1993-2002, he ran TWI, the television division of IMG, running its Indian business as well as television production for Asia. He was a radio and television journalist, commentator and presenter from 1982-1993.

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