Following weeks of rumors and stops and starts, The Walt Disney Co. has finalized a $52.4 billion stock deal to acquire most of the key assets of 21st Century Fox, including its film and television production studios.
Announced this morning, the agreement "provides Disney with the opportunity to reunite the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool with the Marvel family under one roof and create richer, more complex worlds of inter-related characters and stories that audiences have shown they love."
Subject to the approval of federal regulators, the sale would also give Disney ownership of Fox's cable entertainment networks, such as FX Networks and National Geographic, international television businesses, and 30-percent interest in Hulu. Disney, which already owns a 30-stake in the streaming service, will now have controlling interest. The acquisition is expected to be complete within 12 t0 18 months.
Before the acquisition is complete, Fox will spin off the Fox Broadcasting network and local stations, Fox News, Fox Business Network, FS1, FS2 and Big Ten Network into a new company, called New Fox.
The purchase of the Fox assets is only the latest in a series of major acquisitions by Disney that began in 2006 with Pixar, and continued in 2009 with Marvel and in 2012 with Lucasfilm. Including debt, which Disney will assume, the deal is valued at $66 billion.
“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,” Disney Chairman and CEO Robert A. 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, 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.”
Iger, who has served as Disney CEO since 2005, will continue in that position through 2021.
In addition to the X-Men, Deadpool and the Fantastic Four, Disney's announcement cites the addition to its portfolio of James Cameron's Avatar, which already enjoys a presence at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort, and The Simpsons.
Additional details are expected during an early-morning conference call with Disney investors.