Blockbuster: Disney to buy 21st Century Fox assets for $52.4 bn
Blockbuster: Disney to buy 21st Century Fox assets for $52.4 bn
The blockbuster transaction also vastly reduces the Fox media empire built by Rupert Murdoch, leaving the 86-year-old tycoon and his two sons with a more tightly focused group including the Fox broadcast network, Fox News Channel and sports channels.
The deal will see Disney acquire the vaunted Fox Hollywood film and television studios, cable entertainment networks and international TV businesses, bringing popular entertainment properties including “X-Men,” “Avatar,” “The Simpsons,” FX Networks and National Geographic into Disney’s portfolio.
“The acquisition of this stellar collection of businesses from 21st Century Fox reflects the increasing consumer demand for a rich diversity of entertainment experiences that are more compelling, accessible and convenient than ever before,” said Disney’s chief executive Robert Iger in a statement.
Iger, who was previously expected to step down in 2019, will now stay on through 2021.
Disney has been seen as trying to bolster its Hollywood and television positions by acquiring the Fox library of content to strengthen its arsenal against Netflix and other rivals.
The rise of streaming services and the so-called cord-cutting movement against cable television, together with declining advertising revenue, have contributed to a rapidly changing landscape for media companies.
Disney, which owns the ABC television network, ESPN and has major studios in Hollywood, is set to launch its own streaming services aimed at competing against Netflix and Amazon.
The deal would expand Disney’s global footprint with Fox’s 39 percent share in the European pay TV service Sky. Fox has been seeking the remainder of Sky but has faced regulatory scrutiny in Britain.
It also gives Disney a controlling interest in Hulu, another popular streaming service.
Analysts have said the deal could face considerable scrutiny by antitrust regulators because of the tie-up between two of the largest film and television groups.
The news comes as another major media deal, between AT&T and Time Warner, has been challenged in an antitrust filing by the US Justice Department.
Prior to the deal going through, 21st Century Fox will transfer the Fox Broadcasting network and stations, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, FS1, FS2 and Big Ten Network into a newly listed company that will be spun off to its shareholders.
Rupert Murdoch said in the statement issued by the companies: “We are extremely proud of all that we have built at 21st Century Fox, and I firmly believe that this combination with Disney will unlock even more value for shareholders as the new Disney continues to set the pace in what is an exciting and dynamic industry.”
21st Century Fox shareholders will receive 0.2745 Disney shares for each 21st Century Fox share they hold under the deal.
A separate statement from the Murdoch-led group said the “new Fox” would be “a growth company centered on live news and sports brands, anchored by the strength of the Fox Network.”
“The new Fox will draw upon the powerful live news and sports businesses of Fox, as well as the strength of our broadcast network,” Rupert Murdoch said.
It will also include broadcast and cable rights to sports from the National Football League, Major League Baseball, World Cup football and Nascar.
“It is born out of an important lesson I’ve learned in my long career in media: namely, content and news relevant to viewers will always be valuable.”
The deal has sparked speculation that Murdoch’s son James would play a key role at Disney, but there was no announcement in the release on that.
Iger, speaking on ABC’s Good Morning America, said James Murdoch would be “integral to the integration process” and added that there would be discussions “whether there is a role for him or not at our company.”
Rupert Murdoch, an Australian-born US citizen, has built up a vast media-entertainment empire over the past decades.
In 2013 he split off the newspaper publishing group which retained the original name of the group, News Corp., making 21st Century Fox an independent entity.
Murdoch began a gradual withdrawal from both companies in 2013, and now shares the title of chairman with his eldest son Lachlan at both firms.
Comcast outbids Fox with $40 billion offer for Sky in auction
- Disney agreed a separate $71 billion deal to buy most of Fox’s film and TV assets, including its existing 39 percent stake in Sky, in June and would have taken full ownership after a successful Fox takeover
LONDON: Comcast beat Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox in the battle for Sky on Saturday after offering 30.6 billion pounds ($40 billion) in a dramatic auction to decide the fate of the pay-television group.
The US cable giant bid 17.28 pounds a share for control of London-listed Sky, bettering a 15.67 pounds-a-share offer by Fox, Britain’s Takeover Panel said.
Buying Sky will make Philadephia-based Comcast, which owns the NBC network and Universal Pictures, the world’s largest pay-TV operator with around 52 million customers.
Chairman and chief executive Brian Roberts has had his eye on Sky as a way to help counter declines in subscribers for traditional cable TV in its core US market as viewers switch to video-on-demand services like Netflix and Amazon .
“This is a great day for Comcast,” he said. “This acquisition will allow us to quickly, efficiently and meaningfully increase our customer base and expand internationally.”
Comcast’s knock-out offer thwarted Murdoch’s long-held ambition to win control of Sky, and is also a setback for US entertainment giant Walt Disney which would have likely been its ultimate owner.
Disney agreed a separate $71 billion deal to buy most of Fox’s film and TV assets, including its existing 39 percent stake in Sky, in June and would have taken full ownership after a successful Fox takeover.
Comcast’s final offer was significantly higher than its bid going into the auction of 14.75 pounds, and compares with Sky’s closing price of 15.85 pounds on Friday.
Comcast believed it needed to deliver a knock-out blow given that Fox’s existing stake in Sky gave it a chance of victory if it was a close second to Comcast, two sources said.
Comcast’s final offer — more than double Sky’s share price before Fox made its approach in December 2016 — quickly won the backing of Sky’s independent directors on Saturday.
“We are recommending it as it represents materially superior value,” said Martin Gilbert, chairman of Sky’s independent committee. “We are focused on drawing this process to a successful and swift close and therefore urge shareholders to accept the recommended Comcast offer.”
Fox will now concede defeat, a source told Reuters.
It is reviewing options for its stake, a holding that stems from Murdoch’s role in the creation of the company nearly three decades ago, the source said.
Fox declined to comment.
Comcast, which requires 50 percent plus one share of Sky’s equity to win control, said it was also seeking to buy Sky shares in the market.
One hedge fund manager who holds Sky shares said nobody could complain about the Comcast price.
“The question now is if Fox actually sells out and if not can Comcast get to 50 percent,” he said.
Another hedge-fund manager said it was a “huge” price, and shareholders would accept it.
Sources familiar with the matter said Fox, Disney and Comcast had not been in discussions about the 39 percent stake.
The quick-fire auction marked a dramatic climax to a protracted transatlantic bidding battle waged since February, when Comcast gate-crashed Fox’s takeover of Sky.
It is a blow to 87-year-old Murdoch and the US media and entertainment group that he controls, which had been trying to take full ownership of Sky since December 2016.
Murdoch’s son James, currently chairman of Sky, was instrumental in building the company into the leading European pay TV group, with operations in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy, and more than 23 million customers attracted to its top-flight sport and entertainment content.
Sky’s chief executive Jeremy Darroch said it was the beginning of a new chapter. “Sky has never stood still, and with Comcast our momentum will only increase,” he said. ($1 = 0.7648 pounds)