The Fox board today recommended that its shareholders vote in favor of the enhanced $71.3 billion offer from Disney, which yesterday won U.S. antitrust approval. Disney agreed to shed Fox’s regional sports networks to resolve the Justice Department’s concerns.
Disney boosted its bid for Fox last week, offering $19 billion more than than the bid Fox accepted last December, and it’s close to 10% ahead of the $65 billion one Comcast submitted. The U.S. cable giant is reportedly scrambling to line up funding to top that bid.
Meanwhile, major 21st Century Fox shareholder TCI Fund Management is urging executive chairman Rupert Murdoch to give Comcast more time to come back with a counter-offer to rival Disney’s $71 billion bid for most of Fox.
In a letter obtained by Reuters, TCI chief Chris Hohn said the fund is “strongly motivated” to support whichever deal reaches the highest price. TCI increased its stake to 4% last spring and now holds some 7% of Fox, the report said.
During the brawl over Fox’s studio, network and digital assets, there has been frequent speculation about which company Murdoch would want to bet on, given that stock would change hands. The prevailing sense has been that he has leaned toward Disney.
Also today, in a letter to employees that was also logged with the SEC, Lachlan and James Murdoch addressed the Department of Justice conditional approval of Disney’s offer for most of Fox. They said they anticipate the Disney deal closing in six to 12 months.
In terms of the 22 regional sports networks that Disney agreed to divest in order to gain DOJ approval, the Murdochs acknowledge that the DOJ condition will “reshape the future course of our regional sports businesses and add uncertainty for our colleagues across the RSNs. … We are confident that whatever the outcome, the future … will continue to be incredibly bright.”