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News Corp to buyout ESPN's stake in ESS
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MUMBAI: In a move that will shake up the sports broadcasting business in Asia, News Corp is buying out ESPN's 50 per cent stake in ESPN Star Sports (ESS) to take full control of the company.

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 Disney'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 Corp deputy COO, chairman, CEO International James Murdoch said, "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" .

Disney Media Networks co-chairman, ESPN president John Skipper said, "After 16 years 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."
News Corp and ESPN also announced that ESS MD Manu Sawhney will transition his role of MD to Fox International Channels (FIC) Peter Hutton, who is currently SVP of sports. Hutton will report to the ESS board. Sawhney will be staying with the Company until 31 August 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.

News Corp COO Europe, Asia Jan Koeppen and ESPN International executive VP, MD Russell Wolff said, "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".

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