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Sky News included in sale of Sky to Disney as part of multi-billion dollar deal with 21st Century Fox

By Freddy Mayhew

Sky News is included in the sale of Sky to Disney as part of a multi-billion dollar deal with 21st Century Fox, Press Gazette understands.

Walt Disney has taken over Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox in a deal worth $52.4bn (£39bn), it was announced this afternoon.

Disney acquires the 39 per cent of Sky currently owned by Fox and “full ownership” of the broadcaster if and when its ongoing takeover bid is completed, according to the terms of the deal.

Currently Fox’s attempt to grab the 61 per cent of Sky it doesn’t already own is under review by the UK competition watchdog amid concerns over its impact on media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards.

In a joint statement issued today, the companies said: “Prior to the close of the transaction, it is anticipated that 21st Century Fox will seek to complete its planned acquisition of the 61 per cent of Sky it doesn’t already own.”

They said Fox remained “fully committed to completing the current Sky offer” which is anticipated to be completed by June 30, 2018, at which point Disney would “assume full ownership of Sky”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “While 21st Century Fox’s existing pans to acquire Sky remain in place we expect the current investigation to continue.”

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Disney will also assume roughly $13.7bn of net debt from 21st Century Fox.

James Murdoch had been touted as a possible replacement for Disney chairman and chief executive Bob Iger, but Iger is set to remain in place through to 2021

Iger said: “We’re honored and grateful that Rupert Murdoch has entrusted us with the future of businesses he spent a lifetime building, 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.

“The deal will also substantially expand our international reach, allowing us to offer world-class storytelling and innovative distribution platforms to more consumers in key markets around the world.”

Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, said: “We are extremely proud of all that we have built at 21st Century Fox, and I firmly believe that this combination with Disney will unlock even more value for shareholders as the new Disney continues to set the pace in what is an exciting and dynamic industry.

“Furthermore, I’m convinced that this combination, under Bob Iger’s leadership, will be one of the greatest companies in the world. 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.”

The deal focused on the sale of Fox’s film and television studios, including 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox 2000, and 20th Century Fox Television, FX Productions and Fox21.

Disney will also acquire FX Networks, National Geographic Partners, Fox Sports Regional Networks, Fox Networks Group International, Star India and Fox’s interests in Hulu, Tata Sky and the Endemol Shine Group.

Disney’s international reach would greatly expand through the addition of Sky, which serves nearly 23m households in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy, Fox Networks International, with more than 350 channels in 170 countries, and Star India, which operates 69 channels reaching 720m viewers a month across India and more than 100 other countries.

Iger described the acquisitions as a “stellar collection of businesses”.

As a result of the deal, a “new ‘Fox’” is being created in the US “which will be a growth company centered on live news and sports brands, anchored by the strength of the Fox Network,” the company said a separate statement.

Fox will include the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox Sports, Fox Television Stations Group, and sports cable networks FS1, FS2, Fox Deportes and Big Ten Network.

Picture: Disney

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