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Murdoch ‘to succeed Iger’ after Fox deal

21st Century Fox is nearing a deal to sell an array of its assets to Disney, with Fox boss James Murdoch reportedly being lined up as the next CEO at the Mouse House.

James Murdoch

News that the talks between the two companies had restarted emerged yesterday, and reports in the US now suggest a deal could be agreed as early as next week.

A potential deal would revolve around the future of Fox’s cablenets, including FX, its international operations such as European pay operator Sky and Star in India, and its film studio operations.

Fox CEO and Sky chairman James Murdoch, son of company founder Rupert, is also now being lined up to take the top job at Disney should the deal be closed, according to the Financial Times, ahead of the retirement of current CEO Bob Iger in 2019.

It’s the latest development in the fast-moving saga over the future of Fox’s assets. Shares in the company soared last month after it emerged US media giants Comcast and Verizon had joined Disney in the race to acquire various parts of the company’s operations.

NBCUniversal owner Comcast and telecoms giant Verizon entered the fray after the interest from Disney reportedly cooled.

The addition of Fox’s TV assets and international exposure would be attractive to Disney as it gears itself up to take on players such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix with its forthcoming direct-to-consumer offering.

It is believed Disney’s clout in the changing TV consumption landscape would allow it to compete with the new digital players, whereas Fox lacks the scale to do so, although the latter point has previously been dismissed by Fox executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch.

Disney announced earlier this year that it plans to pull its film content from Netflix in 2019 and launch a rival Disney-branded international streaming service.

Any arrangement would not entail a total purchase of 21st Century Fox, with the company expected to hold on to its Fox broadcasting network, its sports programming assets, news and business channels and local broadcasting affiliates.

Fox’s assets range from a 50% stake in production giant Endemol Shine Group, a sprawling cable business that includes National Geographic and FX and a 30% interest in US-based streamer Hulu.

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