UPDATE 1-News Corp buys Disney stake in Asian sports JV

June 6 Wed Jun 6, 2012 6:17am EDT

June 6 (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has bought out Walt Disney Co's 50 percent stake in Asian joint venture ESPN STAR Sports (ESS) for an undisclosed sum, the two companies said on Wednesday, ending a 16-year partnership in the region.

ESS operates 28 broadcast networks in 24 Asian countries, including a number focused on cricket, one of the biggest sports in the region.

"News Corporation's acquisition of the interest of ESS that we did not already own ... 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 & CEO international, News Corp.

Peter Hutton, senior vice president of sports for News Corp's FOX International Channels, will take over as managing director of ESS. He will succeed Manu Sawhney, who will stay on until the end of August.

"After 16 years jointly managing ESS, we have decided to independently pursue future opportunities in Asia," said John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman, Disney Media Networks.

"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."

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