News Corp. buys ESPN’s share in Asia j.v.

Manu Sawhney replaced by Peter Hutton

LONDON — News Corp. is to buy ESPN’s 50% stake in Asian joint venture ESPN Star Sports.

No financial details were given.

News Corp. said the move will give it the ability to own and operate all of the ESS businesses, and provide ESPN with more independence and flexibility.

James Murdoch, News Corp. deputy chief operating officer, said the acquisition “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.”

The deal, which must be approved by regulators, ends a 16-year partnership between News Corp. and the Disney-owned sports channel provider in Asia.

John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, said: “We are 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.”

ESS managing director Manu Sawhney is leaving the company and will be replaced by Peter Hutton, currently senior VP of sports at News Corp.’s Fox Intl. Channels.