It looks like Setanta could be saved, just in the nick of time.
The Irish sports broadcaster owes the English Premier League £30 million ($49 million), and is in danger of falling into administration. But American billionaire Leonard Blavatnik has confirmed that his privately owned company, Access Industries, is in serious talks to take a majority stake in the struggling Irish company.
The company said: “Access Industries can confirm that this morning it submitted a proposal to the board of Setanta to acquire a majority interest in Setanta, refinancing the company.
“The Access proposal is subject to a number of pre-conditions being met. Access believes that this proposal would secure the future of the broadcaster for customers, football and employees”"
It is believed that Russian-American Blavatnik has offered £20 million ($33 million) for a 51 percent stake in Setanta.
The buy would drastically lower the value of the Setanta. Originally, reports stated that Setanta founders Michael O’Rourke and Leonard Ryan were looking for an investment of around £50 million ($82 million). And two years ago, the company was quietly marketed to potential buyers for £1 billion.
An announcement is expected later on today as to whether the company follows through with the deal.
If the companies fail to reach an agreement today, Setanta would likely be pushed towards administration, which could result in the group being broken up.
Setanta provides coverage across the U.S. of Irish hurling and football games during the summer, and the loss of the service would be a huge blow for many exiles that follow Irish games closely.
The sports company’s troubles began in February when they lost the rights to rival broadcaster Sky for an upcoming three-year English Premier League package. Setanta currently holds the rights to show 46 live matches per season, but beginning in August 2010, this number will be dropped to 23. Sky will be airing 115 matches.
Setanta’s troubles came to light earlier this month when they missed a £3 million payment.
The company’s board has been in talks on how to alleviate the situation all week, and for now has suspended the signing up of new subscribers.
In recent years, the Irish sports broadcaster has committed almost £1 billion to secure live rights to in-demand sports including Premier League football and the FA Cup in England, the Scottish Premier League, PGA golf, Uefa Champions League football and Formula One motor racing.
The company currently has around 1.2 million direct subscribers, but needs no fewer than 1.9 million to break even, according to reports.
Setanta attempted a wholesale deal with Sky, but they failed to reach an agreement. The Irish company also appealed to sports network ESPN for a buy-out, but the ESPN said they have no plans to do so.