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Disney closing in on Fox deal – reports

Walt Disney is closing on a deal to acquire a significant share of rival media company 21st Century Fox’s business interests, according to multiple reports.

US business news television channel CNBC said Disney would acquire television and studio production assets, leaving Fox with its sports and news interests. Fox is also said to be in talks with US telco Comcast, but CNBC said negotiations with Disney have progressed more significantly, adding that a deal valued at more than $60bn (€51.8bn) could come as soon as next week.

CNBC said the proposed deal includes the sale of Fox’s Star network in India, regional sports networks in the US, Nat Geo, movie studios and stakes in European pay-television broadcaster Sky and US VOD service Hulu, among other properties. Fox would retain its news and business news divisions, broadcast network and Fox Sports.

The Reuters news agency said the Murdoch family, which controls Fox, prefers a deal with Disney because it would rather be paid in Disney than Comcast stock, adding that it expects a potential deal with Disney to receive US regulatory clearance more easily.

Fox is currently wrapped up in regulatory talks to acquire the remaining 61-per-cent stake in European pay-television broadcaster Sky. Reuters added that this deal is expected to be approved in the first half of 2018, adding that any deal with Disney would include the remaining stake of Sky.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times said that Fox chief executive James Murdoch is being lined up as a potential successor to Disney chief executive Bob Iger, should the deal go through. The newspaper said Rupert Murdoch and his younger son, James, could take senior roles at a combined company. Iger is due to retire in 2019.

Speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York yesterday (Tuesday), James Murdoch declined to comment on reports about a potential deal. “It’s always good to look at what’s going to create the most value for our shareholders,” he said, according to Reuters.