New media firm with Irish connections to buy Upstart


31 Aug 2006

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Upstart Games, a Dublin-based developer and publisher of games for mobile devices, is to be acquired by Sun TV Shop, a new media company with strong Irish connections that is listed on the AIM.

In a statement, Sun TV Shop said it had signed a letter of intent to buy Upstart, as part of a strategy to roll out so-called ‘3C’ services – based around content, community and commerce – for the mobile space. The deal will be subject to the approval of both companies’ boards of directors and pending completion of a due diligence process.

The companies did not disclose a purchase price but the transaction will largely be completed through a share swap, a spokesman for Sun TV Shop told siliconrepublic.com.

If the acquisition goes ahead, Sun TV Shop said it plans to combine Upstart’s worldwide mobile distribution network, product development team and localisation platform, with Sun TV Shop’s presence in China. It added that Upstart brings several assets to the table, such as a management team with international experience in media, e-commerce and telecommunications in addition to a library of international content that can be launched in the Chinese market.

It emerged that three of Sun TV Shop’s directors are Irish, including Tom Jones who helped to found Smart Telecom, and Gerald O’Mahony, former chairman of AIB Capital Markets. The company is registered in Ireland. A spokesman confirmed that further acquisitions are in the pipeline. “We’re looking at other acquisitions which may have an Irish connection – in fact, they probably will,” he said.

Upstart Games was founded in 2002 by John Dennehy and Barry O’Neill and has offices in New York and Tokyo, in addition to its Dublin headquarters. The company has deals with some of the major Japanese developers including Konami and Sony Computer Entertainment, in addition to agreements with mobile networks in the US and Europe such as Verizon Wireless, Sprint, Cingular and Vodafone.

Barry O’Neill, CEO of Upstart Games, said mobile gaming was “just the first phase of content strategy” for the company. “New interactive content services will emerge that will embrace mobile games and drive the take-up of consumer data services into a much wider user base,” he said in a statement. “By joining hands with Sun TV Shop we will have the resources and support to complete our transformation into a full-service mobile media company.”

By Gordon Smith