ESPN has agreed to sell its 50 percent stake in ESPN Star Sports to its News Corp. According to News Corp., the move will allow the company to own and operate all off the ESPN Star Sports business will giving ESPN more independence and flexibility in the future to support parent company The Walt Disney Co.’s overall efforts in Asia. The move also means the end for ESPN Star Sports managing director Manu Sawhney, a 16-year veteran of the company.
Sawhney will help transition the lead of ESPN Star Sports to News Corp.’s Peter Hutton, currently senior vice president of sports for FOX International Channels. Sawhney will be staying with the company until the end of August.
“News Corporation’s acquisition of the interest of ESPN Star Sports 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 and CEO of News Corp.
“After 16 years jointly managing ESPN Star Sports, we have decided to independently pursue future opportunities in Asia,” said John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman of 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.”
Sawhney joined ESPN Star Sports’ 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 ESPN Star Sports, 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 ESPN Star Sports’ growth, and his contributions since its inception have helped ESPN Star Sports 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 ESPN Star Sports’ 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 Russell Wolff, executive vice president and managing director of ESPN International.
“It has been a privilege to serve News Corporation and ESPN at ESPN Star Sports 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,” said Sawhney. “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.”