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Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Takes Over Nonprofit National Geographic Media

Fox will take 73 percent of the new media company, National Geographic Partners, in deal worth $725 million

Climate-change critic Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox has bought National Geographic’s media properties in a new venture valued at $725 million, both entities announced Wednesday.

Fox will own 73 percent of the new company, National Geographic Partners, and the National Geographic Society will own 27 percent, with a shared governance structure and equal representation on the board of directors. Under the deal, the monthly National Geographic magazine will become a for-profit publication for the first time in its 127-year history.

The partnership includes National Geographic’s other media outlets, including its cable television channels which Fox has owned and operated for the last 18 years. National Geographic Channels reach more than 500 million households globally in 171 countries.

The National Geographic Society will remain a nonprofit devoted to scientific research and education, but its endowment will increase to nearly $1 billion.

Fox CEO James Murdoch, the youngest son of Rupert Murdoch, told the Washington Post that there were no plans to change the magazine. But critics noted the senior Murdoch’s tendency to reshape the publications he’s acquired, like the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, as well as his dismissal of climate-change science as “alarmist nonsense.”

The board chair will alternate annually. Gary Knell, National Geographic Society president and CEO, will serve as the board’s first chairman.

The new expanded joint venture will operate as National Geographic Partners and will combine the National Geographic television channels with National Geographic’s other media and consumer-oriented assets, including: National Geographic magazines; National Geographic Studios; related digital and social media platforms; books; maps; children’s media; and ancillary activities, including travel, location-based entertainment, archival sales, catalog, licensing and ecommerce businesses.

Declan Moore, a 20-year veteran of the Society currently serving as chief media officer, has been appointed CEO of National Geographic Partners.

“We are privileged to have the opportunity to expand our partnership to continue to bring to audiences around the world, ‘The world and all that is in it,’ as National Geographic Society’s second president Alexander Graham Bell stated more than a century ago,” James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox, said. “We believe in the Society’s mission of bringing the world to audiences through science, education and exploration.”

The additional resources will enable The National Geographic Society to basically double its investment in an array of science, research and education programs. Plans include the creation of the National Geographic Grosvenor Center for Education, dedicated to improving the geographic skills of high school students, and the establishment of Centers of Excellence in Cartography, Journalism and Photography, which will develop and fund innovations in exploration, mapping and story-telling.

The National Geographic Museum, thought leader forums, and related programs will remain under the Society’s purview, all with the support of a focused philanthropic development team.

Closing of the transaction is subject to customary conditions. The transaction is expected to close later this year.