Top Setanta exec goes

Struggling sports broadcaster Setanta has let another senior executive go. This time it was COO Mark O’Meara who is spending more time with his family. O’Meara was de-facto CEO of the Irish group’s UK operation. He follows commercial director Mark Mohan who fell on his sword in September.

Local reports suggest that former BSkyB finance director Richard Brooke, already a director at Setanta, will assume the top position until a replacement is hired. One name seemingly in the frame is Virgin Media’s head of content Malcolm Wall.

Setanta has spent much of the past year or so seeking to sell itself or win a major investment partner in order for it to make the jump to the next level, which most observers see as making a viable bid for the English premiership soccer TV rights. Richard Brooke said Nov 7 that Setanta was talking to its existing shareholders about the amount of cash that would be needed, but that it “would not be looking for external finance”.

Despite these comments one well-informed source suggests that the on-off talks with Disney’s ESPN are again ‘On’.

Setanta is widely believed to need 1.7m full subscribers to achieve breakeven. It has about 1.4m. There’s extra wholesale cash coming in from carriage deals with Virgin Media.

Goldman Sachs, venture capital players Balderton and private equity firm Doughty reportedly hold similar proportions of Setanta equity, and with the remaining 40% held between Irish founders Leonard Ryan and Michael O’Rourke and other smaller investors.

Setanta has rights to some English Premiership soccer games, as well as Scottish league matches. It has held the English soccer rights to 46 games since 2006 and for which it paid £392m, and which expire with the 2010 season. Goldman Sachs spent much of last winter seeking a buyer at a reported $2bn.