Witnesses say inside information helped Fox win the World Championship. - Liberty

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Witnesses say inside information helped Fox win the World Championship.


Former CEO of Fox International Channels Hernán López has been charged with wire fraud and money laundering. Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

Many TV and football insiders were surprised when news broke that Fox had acquired the US rights to the 2018 World Cup and his 2022 World Cup 12 years before he. I was. For decades, Sports Showcase Championships has been ESPN's exclusive domain, helping to drive interest in the world's most popular games in the world's wealthiest sports market.

But Fox didn't win those tournaments on merit alone, according to government witnesses who testified in federal court in Brooklyn this week.

Instead, his marketing executive, Alejandro Bruzaco, a former sportsman from Argentina, got it from his powerful FIFA executive, who had been secretly bribed for years by executives of media giants. Other bidders, including ESPN and NBC, allegedly wanted to blind Fox's auction and used it to give Fox a decisive advantage.

"He said, 'If Fox gives $400 million, we'll win,'" Bursaco said during his testimony in federal court on Friday when FIFA's Giulio Grondona told him. It roughly matched the price reported on the day FIFA announced that FOX had acquired the rights.

Bruce's testimony came during the second trial of individuals and companies accused in the Department of Justice's long-running international football corruption probe. As part of the crime, he was convicted of racketeering and other crimes. Bruce, who pleaded guilty to his role in the 2015 scandal, also testified at that trial.

In the current case, the government's focus has shifted from the officials who ran football at the time to trading media rights, the financial lifeblood of the game.

His two current defendants, Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martínez are executives at Fox International Channels, who managed the rights to his two most popular tournaments in South America, the Copa Libertadores, and Copa Sudamericana. am. under. I was. For years, prosecutors have argued that these rights were obtained at well below market value thanks to multi-million dollar bribes paid annually to the continent's top football officials.

His third defendant in the current trial is full of his play his group, his Argentina prosecutor who is the marketing company for his sport has been involved in friendly matches, his cup qualifiers, and the South American Continental Championship. excluded Copa America commercial sales. He is seeking rights. He said he used bribes and other backroom deals.

Fox Corporation, which broadcast the recent World Cup in Qatar and North America holds the rights to the 2026 game, exists under a different company name and structure, and was in Brooklyn when the bribery occurred. bottom. It cannot be taken to court. When allegations that Fox may be involved in corrupt practices surfaced in the first trial, the company denied them, saying the opposing allegations were "extremely false."

This week, I'm staying away from bribery and former Fox executives. A company spokesperson said this week, "This lawsuit involves a legacy business that has nothing to do with the new Fox." A subsidiary, Fox International Channels, part of the company known as 21st Century Fox in 2019, and several other divisions, were accused of bribery, a spokeswoman said.

Attorneys for the three defendants have declined to comment on the current lawsuit, as has a spokesman for the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Bruce, who pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges in 2015, is a star witness for the Department of Justice. The former banker, who admitted he paid at least $160 million in bribes over 15 years, is running for office Wednesday and is scheduled to testify next week. To this day, he is the only witness to whom the government has called him. FIFA representatives gave brief testimonies around the world about football's governance structure and the code of ethics that the sport's stakeholders have promised to respect.

So far, this trial lacked some of the headline-grabbing fireworks that characterized the 2017 edition. Bursa said Qatar had bribed three South American officials to ensure the 2022 World Cup would go ahead.

On Thursday, the government's chief prosecutor, Caitlin T. Farrell, began asking Bruzaco how Qatar acquired these rights despite its apparent problems with climate and infrastructure. However, after the defense objected, Judge Pamela K. Chen closed her testimony and ruled that the testimony was irrelevant because no defendant was accused of involvement in the World Cup decision.

A sketch of the courtroom where Alejandro Bursaco disappeared. He testified Friday that former FIFA official Julio Grondona, pictured on the billboard to the right, advised Fox officials on their bid for World Cup rights. Elizabeth Williams / Associated Press

Instead, Farrell has focused on the long-running relationship between his Torneos y Competencias, headed by Argentinian firm Bursaco, and his Fox division, which has created a joint venture to manage football rights. increase. The act began as a bribe to a handful of South American football officials and expanded to nearly 10 of his own by 2011, with popular Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana canceling his lucrative tournament contract. Did. Did it. threatened. They didn't take the annual bribe.

In 2010, Bursaco told Lopez about the bribery at a beachfront hotel in Florida. he said he was bribed

One of the main people he took bribes from was Grondona, then vice-president of FIFA, chairman of the finance committee of the Argentine football organization, and president of the football association. According to Bursaco's testimony, in October 2011, when FIFA began bidding for the English-language broadcast rights for his 2018 and his 2022 World Cup, Lopez contacted him and suggested that Fox was planning to bid. told that there is Lopez then contacted Grondona and asked him to "let him know that any help would be greatly appreciated," Bursaco said.

Buraco wanted to support its major commercial partners. They hired Torneos to produce his content for sports across Latin America, keeping him up and doing exactly what was needed. Grondona said he would do all he could, but it will be difficult.

"Mr. Lopez was very excited," Bursaco recalled on the stand, with Lopez calling it "his crowning achievement at Fox."

As for Grondona, he summoned Bursaco for a private meeting in Buenos Aires shortly after awarding the World Cup rights to Fox.

"Look, Alejandro, I gave you and Fox this boon," Bruzaco recalled him saying.

Grandma died of an aortic aneurysm in July 2014 while under investigation by the Department of Justice. Seven months after her, FIFA announced that Fox had also qualified for his 2026 World Cup. This time, ESPN wasn't even allowed to bid.