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Classen replaces Hair as ESPN’s European boss

Ross Hair, managing director of sports broadcast giant ESPN’s operations in EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), is leaving at the end of the month, SportBusiness International understands.

Charly Classen, formerly ESPN’s senior director for digital media, marketing and commercial in EMEA, has been promoted to vice-president and general manager of ESPN EMEA and will lead the business in the region from February onwards.

Hair (pictured) said that following the completion of ESPN’s business restructure in 2013 – which saw it close down ESPN America, the US sports channel it distributed in Europe, and sell its UK and Irish channels to telecoms operator BT – it was time to move on.

“Last year was a period of great change and restructuring within the business, but it was a very exciting time and a great professional challenge for me personally. And with those changes having been completed it feels like a natural time for me to step away,” he said.

Hair joined ESPN in December 2010 from Sony Pictures Entertainment, where he was executive vice-president for international networks in EMEA. He began his career and UK pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB. SportBusiness International understands Hair will take period of time off work but will look for roles in the media space.

“I’m excited about the opportunity, I’ve been with ESPN for seven years so I know the business pretty well and I have been working very closely with Ross for some time,” said Classen, who added that in addition to continuing growth in selling ESPN's own and third party content in the region, on the digital side of the business he intends to focus on English-language content. “In the UK, we are very well set up with ESPN.co.uk, ESPNcricinfo and ESPNFC, which in a [FIFA] World Cup year has a very exciting year ahead.”