Most eyes are on Alabama’s Senate race tonight but if the expected $68 billion deal between the Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox comes together later this week, one big beneficiary will be President Donald Trump. Not only will the former Celebrity Apprentice host see a potential real rival out of the 2020 race for the White House, but his big media boosters at Fox News Channel will be able to crank up the volume now totally unencumbered.
“Look, I hate the guy, but you can’t deny Trump’s been blessed by adversaries who can’t lay a finger on him and allies who double down and shout from the rooftops,” said one well heeled Hollywood political power player. In terms of rooftop shouting, Rupert Murdoch will be flush with Disney cash and still holding on to the bully pulpit of FNC among his remaining precious properties. In a cable news surging landscape, the informal Trump advisor is well poised to reunite FNC and the rest to what is currently News Corp after the 2013 split.
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“The old man is a newspaper lover and a Trump fan, and Fox News is, by far, his loudest op-ed page,” an insider close to the Fox situation told Deadline of the 86-year-old self appointed Acting CEO of FNC. “If this deal goes through, he’ll be debt free and thinking of taking things private, which means he can take off any restraints that shareholders and others have imposed on him before,” he added. “Look at how The (Wall Street) Journal has been trumpeting Trump, expect even more of that in a harsher partisan manner on Fox News going into 2018 and 2020 elections.”
With Fox’s movie and TV studios, FX and other cable networks, a piece of Hulu plus sizable international assets like Sky on the table, any acquisition of large swaths of Murdoch’s media empire by the House of Mouse is also sure to kneecap any elected office ambitions that Bob Iger may have had.
Now even more a master of the art of the deal than Trump himself if he snags the Fox assets, there is almost no probability that the complex mechanics of the merger won’t consume Iger right up until his July 2019 retirement – if he even leaves then and someone like James Murdoch takes over. Even if the CEO did exit Disney and make a mad dash for it and pulled together a viable primary campaign fast enough to have a real shot at the Democratic nomination, there’s another problem that the Star Wars trash compactor time span of an Iger effort would be marred by.
“I’m an Iger fan, but politics are not the boardroom and Bob doesn’t have the name recognition Trump did,” a politically active insider said, noting how late the real estate mogul and NBC reality host jumped into the last Presidential race. With that now famed ride down the elevator at Trump Tower in June 2015, the then just turned 69-year-old businessman didn’t start his 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue bid until months after the likes of Hilary Clinton and Jeb Bush were already running.
Before the talks between Disney and 21CF became public just weeks ago, the House of Mouse boss on paper looked to likely have a well-funded White House campaign at the very least. Part of Iger’s appeal in some West L.A. and Beverly Hills circles is that he shares the DC outsider status that Trump parlayed into victory in 2016.
Having a lot of Democratic chits to cash in based on his own deep pocketed donor history, the 66-year-old Iger has certainly been pecking at Trump repeatedly since quitting the President’s White House Advisory Council back in June. To the applause of many Democrats, Iger exited because Trump took the United States out of the Paris Accord on Climate Change. Since then, in moves any candidate would recognize, he has criticized Trump’s stance on issues like gun control, NFL player protests and immigration, like the rescinding of the DACA program.
While the notion that the Disney CEO could seriously be pondering an Oval Office run once his contract expires in 2019 was seen by many as hopeful salvos from his longtime communications chief and ex-George Pataki advisor Zenia Mucha, Iger himself has played coy. “I will figure it out when I have to figure it out,” the CEO said in full Man For All Seasons mode at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in early October before the Fox purchase really heated up.
Now, that elected ambition will all be figured out for Bob Iger if the Fox deal comes together as quickly as Thursday. What still remains unknown is if another extension of his contract is happening – but, with no real successor in hand, that’s the Disney boardroom drama to come next, isn’t it? A drama Fox News and Fox Business Network will report on and Donald Trump can tweet about from his White House bedroom in the mornings in the days and years to come.
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