Former ESPN president John Skipper testified in a US District Court on Tuesday regarding FOX’s acquisition of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments. Skipper revealed that ESPN, along with Univision, outbid FOX for the media rights. However, FIFA overlooked the bids.
Skipper claimed that the duo of ESPN and Univision submitted a joint bit of $900 million to broadcast the two tournaments. Under the agreement, each network would put up $450 million. FIFA, however, allowed FOX to win the bid with an offer of just $425 million.
John Skipper was ‘angry’ about losing the World Cup bid
“I was disappointed,” Skipper told the court as reported by Fortune. “In fact, I was angry.” The network exec assumed the highest bidder wins the broadcasting rights.
Skipper also stated that ESPN’s initial offer to broadcast the two World Cup competitions was $250 million. The sports network then quickly increased their second offer to $450 million. “We wanted to blow the bid away,” Skipper said in court.
Prosecutors in the case allege that two former FOX execs issued millions of dollars in bribes and obtained inside information to secure broadcasting rights. Officials charged Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez with money laundering and wire fraud. Lopez is the former chief executive of FOX’s international channels. Meanwhile, Martinez was previously president of FOX’s subsidiary Latin American operations.
Star witness corroborates Skipper’s comments
Skipper’s testimony essentially corroborates previous statements by government witness Alejandro Burzaco. The former CEO of Argentine sports network TyC claimed that he helped Lopez and Martinez bribe South American soccer officials. The move was to help FOX acquire U.S. television rights to the Copa Libertadores and the two World Cup competitions. Both bribes worked and FOX secured broadcasting rights to the tournaments.
In turn, defense lawyers insist the prosecution is framing their clients. One defense attorney predictably asserted that Burzaco was in fact the mastermind behind the plans. Burzaco, who testified for 11 days in the trail, has already pleaded guilty to multiple charges including racketeering conspiracy.
FOX has denied any involvement in the alleged offenses and has claimed that they are cooperating with the government.
PHOTO: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire
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