One month after the first report emerged that 21st Century Fox was in talks to sell part of its company to The Walt Disney Company, the companies are reportedly closing in on a deal, which could be announced next week.
Just hours after the CNBC report about Fox and Disney, 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch declined to comment during his keynote speech at the UBS 45th annual global media and communications conference in New York.
“It would be wrong to comment on market speculation,” said Murdoch. “There’s nothing to add to that other than the nothing we’ve said so far.” However, the CEO did go on to say that his company is always thinking about “long-term value,” explaining “always we look to, what’s going to create the most value for our shareholders.”
Under the deal, Fox would reportedly sell its studio and TV production assets (including National Geographic, FX, the movie studio, the regional sports networks and Fox’s stakes in Sky and Hulu), and keep its news and business news networks, broadcast network and Fox Sports. Disney would not be able to buy all of Fox, given that it already owns one broadcast network, ABC, and could not own a second.
While Fox would still have several networks, the loss of its production studio would be a major blow given the importance of vertical integration, depriving it of a key TV revenue source.
The enterprise value of the Fox assets that Disney would be acquiring is north of $60 billion, according to CNBC.
Fox declined to comment to Adweek about the report, and Disney did not respond to a request for comment.
Murdoch’s brother Lachlan, who is executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, also declined to address reports of a sale at Business Insider’s annual Ignition: Future of Media conference last week in New York, explaining that he didn’t want to “feed that gossip” about a potential sale. But Lachlan noted that the speculation “has caused a debate around scale,” and declared “we feel strongly about where we’re positioned to grow … as a standalone company.”
If a deal is indeed announced, it is unclear when the acquisition would be finalized. AT&T reached a deal to buy Time Warner (which had previously been in merger talks with Fox) in October 2016, and that deal still hasn’t been completed.