Comcast is coming after Fox and they may actually be able to steal Disney’s date to the media conglomerate dance. Fox is reportedly much more open to being bought by Comcast now than Fox originally was when they agreed to sell most of their assets to Disney instead back in December.
According to Wall Street analyst Richard Greenfield from BTIG, Rupert Murdoch wants the best return on his assets. Murdoch is supposedly no longer attached to the idea of selling to Disney and it will all come down to which company makes the better offer.
NEW: @RichBTIG tells us that Rupert Murdoch is no longer set on selling 21st Century Fox to Disney for stock, but is looking to get maximum value for the assets, which leaves the door wide open for Comcast to swoop in with a big offer. #CheddarLIVE pic.twitter.com/hHOFdtXH77
— Cheddar (@cheddar) June 7, 2018
Comcast has been preparing an all-cash bid higher than Disney’s current all-stock offer of $52.4B. Fox already agreed to sell to Disney for that price, but can back out of the deal by paying Disney a “breakup fee” of $1.52B.
Comcast is waiting for the expected judicial approval of the AT&T-Time Warner merger. The regulatory challenges to that merger discouraged Murdoch from selling most of 21st Century Fox to Comcast in the first place. Once that judge’s approval is handed down on Tuesday, June 12, the regulatory path for a Comcast-Fox deal will be relatively clear.
Disney is unlikely to give up on buying Fox without a fight. A bidding war could start as soon as next week. Ultimately, Fox shareholders will have the final say on which bid they approve. The Murdoch family accounts for 17% of shareholder votes.
At stake are most of 21st Century Fox’s assets including the 20th Century Fox movie studio, which holds the rights to Fantastic Four and X-Men (along with related properties like Deadpool). If Comcast succeeds in scooping this deal out from underneath Disney, the fate of those properties is unclear.
It will all come down to the language in the licensing agreements (for each property) between Marvel and Fox that was signed in the late 1990s. If the licensing agreement explicitly blocks transfers for any reason, even in the event of Fox merging with or being acquired by another company, then the rights will revert back to Marvel. If no such language exists, then there could be a legal battle, or we may simply see Universal (Comcast’s movie studio) making Fantastic Four and X-Men movies.
This is a Marvel site, so I obviously focus on how this story impacts Marvel characters. Keep in mind, however, that Marvel movie rights are not a primary motivator for Disney or Comcast wanting to buy Fox.