Disney Acquires 21st Century Fox Assets for $52.4 Billion

Deal brings “X-Men,” “The Simpsons” under the Disney umbrella and boosts Bob Iger’s push into streaming

21st Century Fox Disney
21st Century Fox / Disney

Disney on Thursday announced a massive deal to acquire much of 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion in stock.

The buyout infuses the Mouse House with a bevy of Fox properties, including its film and TV studios and much of its non-broadcast television business, including regional sports networks and cable networks such as FX, FXX and Nat Geo.

Top franchises like “X-Men,” “Avatar,” “Deadpool,” “Fantastic Four” and “The Simpsons” will also fall under the Disney umbrella should the merger meet regulatory approval in the next 12 to 18 months. And Disney would also pick up Fox’s stake in the European pay-TV giant Sky — and be better positioned to win regulatory approval to complete the acquisition of the 61 percent of the company it does not already own.

Meanwhile, the Murdoch-run Fox will retain the Fox Broadcasting network and 28 owned-and-operated U.S. TV stations, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, FS1, FS2 and Big Ten Network. These will be formed into a “new FOX” company that will be spun off to its shareholders.

Here are some more particulars: Under the terms of the agreement, shareholders of 21st Century Fox will receive 0.2745 Disney shares for each 21st Century Fox share they hold. Disney will also assume approximately $13.7 billion of net debt of 21st Century Fox.

The total transaction value of this mega-deal is approximately $66.1 billion.

Yes, it’s a big bet for Disney CEO Bob Iger, who is looking to fill his company with an arsenal of entertainment content options as it prepares to launch its own streaming service in 2019. Disney also grabs Fox’s 30 percent stake in Hulu as part of the deal — doubling its share of the streaming company and potentially giving it a controlling stake.

But what about Iger’s future? Under the terms of this agreement, he will remain chairman and chief executive officer of Walt Disney Co. through 2021. Iger, who has served as CEO since 2005, had previously planned to retire in 2016 but has extended his tenure several times since then — chasing away several potential successors along the way.

“When considering this strategic acquisition, it was important to the Board that Bob remain as chairman and CEO through 2021 to provide the vision and proven leadership required to successfully complete and integrate such a massive, complex undertaking,” said Orin C. Smith, lead independent director of the Disney Board. “We share the belief of our counterparts at 21st Century Fox that extending his tenure is in the best interests of our company and our shareholders, and will be critical to Disney’s ability to effectively drive long-term value from this extraordinary acquisition.”

The deal also represents an unraveling of the vast media empire built by Rupert Murdoch over the last several decades — a point that Iger acknowledged in a statement.

“We’re honored and grateful that Rupert Murdoch has entrusted us with the future of businesses he spent a lifetime building,” Iger said, “and we’re excited about this extraordinary opportunity to significantly increase our portfolio of well-loved franchises and branded content to greatly enhance our growing direct-to-consumer offerings.”

Murdoch in turn offered praise for Iger. “I’m convinced that this combination, under Bob Iger’s leadership, will be one of the greatest companies in the world,” he said in a statement. “I’m grateful and encouraged that Bob has agreed to stay on, and is committed to succeeding with a combined team that is second to none.”

According to some industry experts, the acquisition makes Disney the “most powerful company” in Hollywood.