Shareholders of The Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox voted this morning to approve the $71.3 billion purchase of Fox's key assets. The deal is expected to be completed by mid-2019, giving Disney control of Fox's film and television production studios, and bringing such properties as the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool into the Marvel Studios fold.
The meetings, held separately at the New York Hilton, each lasted less than 15 minutes, ending a saga that officially began in mid-December when Disney finalized its initial $52.4 billion stock offer for Fox. Of course, that was very nearly derailed last month when one-time Fox suitor Comcast re-entered the picture with its own $65 billion cash offer. Disney responded with a counter of $71.3 billion, a mix of cash and stock, dealing what ended up being the finishing blow to Comcast.
In addition to the film and TV studios and certain character rights, Disney will gain FX Networks, National Geographic, a 30-percent stake in Hulu, a 31.9-percent stake in U.K. pay-TV and broadband provider Sky. To win antitrust approval in the United States, Disney, which already owns ESPN, agreed to divest 22 regional sports networks that are part of the Fox deal. Disney must still clear antitrust hurdles from other governments around the globe, including China and the European Union.
As a result of the Fox acquisition, Disney will have a controlling stake in Hulu, with Comcast's NBCUniversal and AT&T's Warner Media splitting the rest. Disney plans to launch its own branded streaming service next year.
Fox Broadcasting, Fox News and most of the Fox Sports assets will be spun off into a new company, New Fox, owned by 21st Century Fox shareholders and operated by the Murdoch family.