U.S. billionaire offers $32.9 million for 51% stake
Russian-American billionaire Leonard Blavatnik has ridden to the rescue of troubled Brit-based international sports paybox Setanta.The white knight’s investment vehicle, Access Industries, is reported to have offered £20 million ($32.9 million) for a 51% stake in Setanta, which has until the end of today to pay $49.4 million to the English Premier League for the rights to a package of soccer games. If it fails to make the payment, Setanta, operating in the U.S., the U.K. and Ireland, is likely to go into administration, the local version of Chapter 11. A statement released by Access said: “The Access proposal is subject to a number of preconditions being met. Access believes that this proposal would secure the future of the broadcaster.” These preconditions are likely to include the renegotiation of Setanta’s $1.07 billion debt. Setanta is struggling to meet payments for the rights to show a slate that includes soccer, Premiership rugby union, the Professional Golfers’ Assn. Tour Stateside and Indian Premier League cricket. Forbes has estimated Blavatnik’s wealth at $4 billion. He made much of his fortune in the oil and aluminium sectors in the former Soviet Union, but he has since diversified his business interests and become a U.S. citizen. Access’s portfolio of assets includes LyondellBasell, the world’s third largest petrochemicals group, and a majority stake in U.K. digital terrestrial TV operation Top-Up TV, which carries Setanta services. Access also owns a minority stake in Israeli media company RGE Group, which runs sports web Sport 5 and has a stake in sports rights biz Perform.