Setanta UK goes into administration

Tue, Jun 23, 2009, 01:00

The UK division of Setanta Sports has gone into administration and appointed Deloitte as its administrator, the broadcaster confirmed this afternoon.

Setanta, which has 1.2 million subscribers, suspended the collection of subscription payments from customers in the UK.

Administrator Neville Kahn said: “After a huge effort by the Setanta board, management team and its backers, it has not been possible to save the GB business, which will be wound down in due course.”

Meanwhile, David Carson, of Deloitte, has been appointed as receiver to Setanta Sport Holdings Ltd, Setanta Media Holdings, Setanta Media and Setanta Sport, which are based in Ireland.

The company said its international and Irish operations would not be immediately affected by the move and would continue to operate as normal.

Yesterday the broadcaster told the Scottish Premier League (SPL) that it was not in a position to make a £3 million (€3.5 million) payment due since the beginning of this month.

The SPL withdrew the rights, which cover Britain and Ireland. A spokesman for the Glasgow-based body said it would pursue Setanta for the money, which relates to last season. “There is a legal process under way,” he confirmed.

Setanta, which was founded in 1990 by Irishmen Leonard Ryan and Michael O’Rourke, has missed three deadlines for the payment of the £3 million, the latest of which was at 1pm yesterday.

Losing the SPL rights was a significant blow to Setanta given that an estimated one-third of its 1.2 million premium subscribers live in Scotland.

In 2004, Setanta signed a four-year contract with the SPL for £54.5 million. It extended this deal at the end of last year for another four seasons at a cost of £125 million. All of these rights have been revoked.

In England, meanwhile, the Premier League yesterday awarded the rights to the two packs of live games previously held by Setanta to Disney-owned American sports channel ESPN. Setanta lost these rights on Friday after failing to make an overdue £10 million (€11.8 million) payment. The award to ESPN snuffed out any hopes that Setanta might somehow be able to regain the rights.

The loss of the Premier League games followed the collapse of negotiations on Friday with wealthy businessman Len Blavatnik, who had proposed a £20 million investment for a majority stake in the Irish business.

“After a huge effort by the Setanta board, management team and its backers, it has not been possible to save the British business, which will be wound down in due course. This decision means that it will shortly cease broadcasting to its customers in Britain. However, the International and Ireland businesses continue to trade on air whilst we are in discussions with parties to take on those businesses as going concerns," said Neville Kahn of Deloitte, which has been appointed administrators to Setanta.