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Desmond revealed as main investor in Setanta

Published 29/07/2009

The revised ownership of Setanta's Irish and North American businesses was finally laid bare yesterday after the Republic’s broadcasting watchdog approved both handovers.

Concert promoter Denis Desmond now owns 60% of the Irish venture, holding the stake through his Gaeity Investments.

The remaining 40% is owned by Setanta founders Leonard Ryan and Mickey O'Rourke plus long-time Setanta executive Mark O'Meara.

The trio of Mr Ryan, Mr O'Rourke and Mr O'Meara now also own 100% of Setanta North America, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) confirmed.

The statement ended weeks of informed speculation on the ownership of both businesses, which were originally majority holdings of the collapsed Setanta Sports Holdings.

In the Republic, MCD boss Mr Desmond has trebled what was initially a 20% holding in Setanta Sports Ireland into a 60% stake in the new Irish venture, dubbed ‘Setanta Hibernian'.

Setanta Sports Holdings’ 80% stake in the Irish company has been eliminated, while the management trio come in as 40% shareholders, using a new vehicle Sabloss.

The combined fresh investment from Mr Desmond and Sabloss is understood to have come in below the €10m mark.

A spokesman for Setanta said the group “welcomed” the BCI's acceptance of the new ownership structures.

The news comes as Setanta Ireland targets about 20 redundancies at its 150-strong Dublin base and pay cuts of about 20% among many of those that remain.

The Irish company's business has been slimmed down from 79 Premier League games to 33 for next season, while its package of channels has been cut, prompting a “rationalisation”.

Belfast Telegraph

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