Nation & World

Fox holders approve Disney megadeal

Hurdles remain for the $71.3 billion deal

Bloomberg

Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse greets a visitor at Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu City, Japan.
Bloomberg Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse greets a visitor at Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu City, Japan.

21st Century Fox and Walt Disney shareholders approved the sale of Fox’s entertainment assets Friday, moving one of the biggest media mergers in history nearer to completion.

The companies’ investors gave their blessings to the $71.3 billion transaction in separate votes at the New York Hilton Midtown in Manhattan.

When the deal was announced in December, Disney said it would take 12 to 18 months to close — a timetable the company is sticking with.

Upon completion, a new Fox will emerge focused on broadcast TV, sports and the Fox News Channel.

Disney CEO Robert Iger now must turn his attention to the deal’s many loose ends — to consummate the merger and prepare his company for life afterward.

Some of the remaining challenges include:

To win regulatory approval in the United States, Disney has agreed to divest Fox’s 22 regional sports channels. The company already owns ESPN, the biggest sports network.

Bidding could fetch as much as $20 billion.

Some analysts also see the possibility that Iger will seek to cut a deal with Comcast Corp. over that company’s 30 percent interest in Hulu. When the Fox deal closes, Disney will become the majority owner of the video-streaming service.

Although Comcast said last week it won’t continue bidding for Fox’s assets, the Philadelphia-based cable TV giant has the highest offer on the table for British satellite-TV provider Sky at $34 billion.

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Disney is acquiring 39 percent of Sky through the deal with Fox and still technically has a bid on the table for the broadcaster.

Some analysts have suggested Iger may cede Sky to Comcast, freeing Disney from the $19 billion or so it would take to purchase the rest of the business.

Disney has pledged to generate $2 billion in cost savings as a result of the merger, which will unite two of the six largest Hollywood studios.

That’s created a lot of angst at Fox and Disney, where overlapping marketing, ad sales and distribution departments at their respective moive and TV units could lead to hundreds if not thousands of job cuts.

Fox had 21,700 employees at year-end, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, while Disney has 199,000.

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