James Murdoch has reportedly been 'suggested' as a successor to Disney CEO Bob Iger during deal talks

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for National GeographicJames Murdoch.
  • 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch has reportedly been floated as a potential candidate to succeed Bob Iger as CEO of Disney.
  • Disney is reportedly in talks to buy assets from 21st Century Fox valued at more than $US60 billion, but excluding news and sports.
  • If the deal closes, Murdoch would likely join Disney, which would place him in the midst of speculation around Iger’s hotly debated succession plans.

21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch has been “suggested” as a candidate to succeed Bob Iger as Disney CEO, when the storied executive eventually retires, according to The Financial Times, which cited “people briefed on the talks” in a report published Tuesday.

This news came the same day that a CNBC report said Disney was close to a deal to acquire parts of Fox’s studio and television production business, valued at more than $US60 billion.

The assets Disney is reportedly interested in buying include Fox’s A&E and Star TV networks, movie and TV studios, stakes in Sky and Hulu, and other assets. Significantly, the deal would not include Fox’s news and sports assets.

The FT said that if such a deal does close, Murdoch would likely “take a senior executive role with Disney.” Such a move would take Murdoch out of the media empire built by his father Rupert, and in which he and his brother Lachlan have ascended to positions of power.

It would also put him in a prime spot to potentially take over from Iger, if the CEO retires as slated in 2019. (Iger has extended his tenure three times before after mulling retirement.)

“No promises have been made,” however, one person briefed on the talks told the FT.

Iger’s succession plan has been a matter of hot debate for years. Former Disney COO Thomas Staggs was seen as Iger’s heir apparent until he abruptly left his role in early 2016. In November, Bloomberg reported that Disney’s Parks boss, Bob Chapek, had emerged as a contender.

Whoever takes over for Iger will likely have to deal with a period of change in the company, as the secular decline of the traditional TV business continues, and Disney begins to take on tech players like Netflix by going direct to consumer.

Additional reporting by Joe Ciolli.

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