Disney close to clinching $60bn deal with 21st Century Fox
A deal could come as soon as Thursday in a move that would see Disney snap up a slice of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, including Fox’s 39% stake in Sky.
Walt Disney is reportedly close to confirming a takeover of Sky owner 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets in a deal thought to be worth as much as $60 billion (£45 billion).
It is believed a deal could be announced as soon as Thursday in a move that would see Disney snap up a significant slice of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, including Fox’s 39% stake in Sky and film studios 20th Century Fox.
The takeover would leave a question mark over what will happen to Fox’s controversial £11.7 billion bid to buy out the remaining 61% stake in Sky, which is currently being scrutinised by UK competition watchdogs.
Disney and Fox are said to be hammering out the final details of an all-share deal, such as the final price and also a potential future role in the group for Fox chief executive and Sky chairman James Murdoch.
Speculation is mounting over whether he will take on a senior role at the combined group, which would bring to an end 20 years working for his father Rupert, or pursue his own venture.
Disney was left as the front-runner after rival suitor Comcast pulled out of the race on Monday.
It is understood Disney has the backing of the Murdoch family as they see regulators being more likely to clear the deal, and would also rather be paid in Disney stock.
Sky shares edged nearly 0.5% higher on Wednesday, having surged in recent days on reports that Fox and Disney are edging towards a deal.
The tie-up would change the Hollywood studios landscape, bringing together two of the biggest studios.
But it is also likely to come under intense regulatory scrutiny.
The potential deal also comes as Mr Murdoch struggles to finalise the Sky takeover after Culture Secretary Karen Bradley referred the acquisition to Britain’s competition watchdog for an in-depth investigation.
Ms Bradley shifted Fox’s proposed takeover of Sky to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for a full inquiry earlier this year after a three-month probe by Ofcom.
It is not clear if Disney would continue with the takeover plans, although the CMA is likely to continue its investigation and report back as planned with its provisional findings in January.
As well as the film studios and Sky stake, the assets being offloaded by Fox also include FX and National Geographic cable channels, 22 regional US sports networks, Indian pay TV channel Star and the company’s stake in the Hulu digital streaming platform in the US.
Fox’s remaining businesses, such as Fox News and Fox Sport in the US, would likely be spun off into a new company.