News Corp to buy Disney out of ESPN Star Sports

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — News Corp. is buying the 50 percent of Asian regional sports network ESPN Star Sports that it doesn't already own from The Walt Disney Co., in line with the company's stated preference for owning majority stakes in its businesses or shedding them entirely.

The 50-50 joint venture brings sports programming to 24 countries in Asia on 28 networks. News Corp. will continue to use the ESPN brand within agreed-upon guidelines for now.

In the announcement Wednesday, the companies didn't say how much News Corp. is paying to wholly own the venture. The transaction will require regulatory approvals.

News Corp. Deputy COO James Murdoch said the acquisition will simplify its operations.

ESPN president John Skipper said the brand has decided to pursue other opportunities in Asia independently.

He said the company will continue to serve Asian sports fans through its online offerings such as ESPNCricinfo, a cricket brand, ESPNFC and ESPN Mobile.

Shares of Disney, which owns ESPN, rose 65 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $45.49 in afternoon trading.

Peter Hutton, senior vice president of sports for News Corp.'s Fox International Channels, will replace Manu Sawhney as managing director of ESPN Star Sports.

News Corp. shares added 70 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $19.30.

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