New York and Bristol, Conn, June 6, 2012 – News Corporation and ESPN announced today that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which a unit of News Corporation will buy ESPN’s 50 percent equity interest in ESPN STAR Sports (ESS). The transaction will allow News Corporation units 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 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). Hutton will report to the ESS Board. Sawhney will be staying 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 to 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.
“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.
They added, “Peter is a very talented sports media executive, and we believe his extensive experience in sports rights and production will serve ESS well as the business enters into a new phase of development.”
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.”
Hutton joined FOX International Channels Sports in 2011 after 20 years in the international sports television business. He previously worked at Broad Reach Media, a media consultancy firm. Prior to 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 their Indian business as well as television production for Asia. He was a radio and television journalist, commentator and presenter from 1982-1993. Hutton earned a Bachelor’s degree from the Cambridge University and will be relocating to Singapore with his family.
About News Corporation
News Corporation (NASDAQ: NWS, NWSA; ASX: NWS, NWSLV) had total assets as of March 31, 2012 of approximately US$61 billion and total annual revenues of approximately US$34 billion. News Corporation is a diversified global media company with operations in six industry segments: cable network programming; filmed entertainment; television; direct broadcast satellite television; publishing; and other. The activities of News Corporation are conducted principally in the United States, Continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, Asia and Latin America.
For more information about News Corporation, please visit www.newscorp.com.
About FOX International Channels
FOX International Channels (FIC) is News Corporation¹s international multi-media business. We develop, produce and distribute 350+ wholly- and majority-owned entertainment, factual, sports and movie channels across Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa, in 37 languages. These networks and their related mobile, non-linear and high-definition extensions, reach over 1.1 billion households worldwide. We also operate a global online advertising unit, .FOX (pronounced ³dot-fox²) specialized in online video and display, and four TV production houses. In operation since: August 14, 1993.
About ESPN Inc.
ESPN, Inc., is the world’s leading multinational, multimedia sports entertainment company featuring a portfolio of more than 50 multimedia sports assets. The company is comprised of eight 24-hour domestic television networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes, ESPN 3D and the regionally focused Longhorn Network) and five HD simulcast services (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS and ESPN Deportes). Other businesses include ESPN Regional Television, ESPN International (48 networks, syndication, radio, websites, mobile, apps), ESPN Audio (broadcast, satellite, online and apps, a growing category led by ScoreCenter), ESPN.com (plus a variety of sport-, college-, and market-specific sites), ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Enterprises, ESPNHS and espnW. Multi-screen offerings include WatchESPN (access to several ESPN networks online and via an app) and ESPN3 (live multi-screen network available online, on the go and via Xbox LIVE). Based in Bristol, Conn., ESPN is 80 percent owned by ABC, Inc., which is an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. The Hearst Corporation holds a 20 percent interest in ESPN.
About ESPN International
ESPN International is a division of ESPN, Inc., and operates robust multi-media businesses in Brazil; Spanish-speaking Latin America (spanning 18 countries and territories); the UK and Ireland; Europe, the Middle East and Africa (reaching more than 35 countries in the EMEA region); Canada; the Caribbean; Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and more.
About ESPN in Asia Pacific
ESPN currently owns a variety of businesses in Asia and the Pacific Rim including the leading cricket website in the world, ESPNCricinfo.com, ESPNFC, ESPNScrum.com, ESPNfootytips.com, multiple ESPN Mobile businesses and holds an interest in JSB ESPN in Japan. ESPN is also an investor in NBA China. ESPN also continues to operate its wholly-owned multi-platform media business in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. The Walt Disney Company owns and operates the Disney Channel in 20 countries, in addition to Disney Junior and Disney XD across the region. Additionally, Disney recently announced the acquisition of a controlling interest in UTV, one of India’s premier media and entertainment companies.
About ESPN STAR Sports
ESPN STAR Sports is a 50:50 joint venture between The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) and News Corporation Limited ((NASDAQ: NWS, NWSA; ASX: NWS, NWSLV), delivering a diverse array of international and regional sports to viewers.
ESPN STAR Sports features a comprehensive portfolio of multimedia assets including its television networks (ESPN, STAR Sports, STAR Cricket, ESPNEWS, ESPN HD, STAR Cricket HD), broadband network (ESPN Player), digital content services (espnstar.com, mobileESPN), and its on-ground Event Management Group with the aim to engage and entertain sports fans anytime, anyplace.
ESPN STAR Sports showcases an unparalleled variety of premier sports from around the globe featuring some of the most iconic sports events to viewers across 24 countries in Asia through its 28 networks, each localized to deliver differentiated programming to meet diverse needs of Asian sports fans.