IT'S OFFICIAL: Disney will buy 21st Century Fox film and TV assets for $US52.4 billion

Lachlan, Rupert and James Murdoch. Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images
  • Disney will buy Fox’s film studio and a large chunk of its television production assets for $US52.4 billion.
  • The properties acquired include Fox’s 39% stake in Sky, Star India, a collection of pay-TV channels like FX and National Geographic, as well as popular entertainment brands like X-Men, Avatar, and The Simpsons.
  • Disney CEO Bob Iger will remain at the company through 2021.
  • The deal announcement follows months of interest from multiple parties, including Comcast and Verizon.

Disney has agreed to acquire 21st Century Fox’s film studio and a large chunk of its television production assets for $US52.4 billion.

Fox shareholders will receive 0.2745 Disney shares for each unit of Fox stock they own. Disney also announced that it would buy back $US10 billion of stock to offset the share dilution from the deal.

The package that Disney is buying includes Fox’s 39% stake in Sky across Europe, Star India, and a collection of pay-TV channels including FX and National Geographic. The deal also includes popular entertainment properties like X-Men, Avatar, and The Simpsons, according to a press release.

Immediately before completing the acquisition, Fox will spin off its broadcasting network and stations including Fox News, Fox Business, FS1, FS2, and Big Ten Network. The entity will become a newly listed company that will be distributed to Fox shareholders.

Disney CEO Bob Iger will remain with his company through 2021 to “provide the vision and proven leadership required to successfully complete and integrate such a massive, complex undertaking,” Orin Smith, the lead independent director of Disney’s board, said in the release. There was some speculation Iger could leave Disney to enter the 2020 presidential election.

“The acquisition of this stellar collection of businesses from 21st Century Fox reflects the increasing consumer demand for a rich diversity of entertainment experiences that are more compelling, accessible, and convenient than ever before,” Iger said in a statement. “We’re honored and grateful that Rupert Murdoch has entrusted us with the future of businesses he spent a lifetime building.”

In an interview on “Good Morning America,” which airs on the Disney-owned ABC, Iger said Fox’s CEO, James Murdoch, a son of Rupert Murdoch, would help with the transition. He also said there would be discussions “whether there is a role for him or not at our company.”

The deal announcement comes amid considerable interest for Fox from not just Disney but also the likes of Comcast and Verizon. The Wall Street Journal and CNBC reported in November that Comcast and Verizon had approached Fox about buying at least part of the company, providing the first signs of a bidding war.

Now that transaction terms have been agreed upon, the new entity will have to contend with rating declines across many large cable networks as more consumers opt for cheaper and more customisable web-based services.

The deal is likely to come under heavy scrutiny, as the US Justice Department has recently thrown a wrench into another megadeal in the media space: AT&T’s attempt to buy Time Warner for $US84.5 billion. The regulatory body sued to block the deal in November, saying it would “greatly harm American consumers.”

Fox’s stock declined 1.3% in premarket trading Thursday, while Disney fell 0.7%.

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