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French consortium completes Eir takeover

A consortium led by French billionaire Xavier Niel has completed a deal to acquire a majority stake in telecommunications company Eir, whose pay-television broadcaster Eir Sport is a key player in the Irish sports rights market.

In December, the consortium led by NJJ Telecom Europe, part of NJJ Group, the private investment firm of Niel, agreed, alongside French telco Iliad to acquire a majority of Eir at an enterprise value of approximately €3.5bn ($4.35bn).

Eir had been owned by an investor group including Anchorage Capital Group, LLC Davidson Kempner Capital Management, Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC and management. The acquiring consortium comprises NJJ, which will own 32.9 per cent and is the investment vehicle of Niel.

Iliad will own 31.6 per cent of Eir. Niel is the founder of and owns 52 per cent of Iliad where he serves as deputy chairman and chief strategy officer. Following completion of the deal, a new board of directors, chief executive and chief financial officer have been announced and will work with a new senior management team.

Carolan Lennon, the new chief executive, said: “I am looking forward to managing Eir into the next phase of its development. I will work with a new senior management team, all of whom have been appointed from within Eir and who have substantial industry knowledge and market experience.

“The new management team reflects the importance of talent development and embraces gender diversity, themes that are extremely important to me. I am confident that we can, together with the board, build the best fixed and mobile network in Ireland, offer the highest quality products and deliver a first-rate customer care service for the Irish people.”

In recent months, Eir Sport has been strongly linked to a deal to oust rival Sky Sports as the domestic rights-holder of club rugby union competition the Pro14. Eir has been building its presence in the rugby market, notably landing the rights to the 2019 World Cup in July 2016.