Disney have completed the acquisition of 21st Century Fox following a fifteen month period process.
Disney is poised to close the $71.3 billion deal that took many twists and turns last year shortly after 9 p.m. PT on Tuesday. (See timeline below). The birth of the Murdochs’ successor Fox Corporation — home of Fox Broadcasting, Fox News and Fox Sports — will also be official on Tuesday.
The completion of the historic transaction has top Wall Street analysts weighing in with a vote of confidence in Disney’s big gambit and the leadership of chairman-CEO Bob Iger. Disney shares have mostly been flat or down since the acquisition was unveiled Dec. 14, 2017, but its been trending up since mid-February in anticipation of the deal closing. The stock was up 48 cents at the close of trading Friday to $114.96. It’s up 7% for the year to date.
Iger is heading into what will likely be the biggest challenge of his Disney tenure. He’s re-engineering the studio’s film and TV operations toward direct-to-consumer platforms, and at the same time the company will be juggling a massive integration process of far-flung Fox assets including the 20th Century Fox studio, FX Networks, National Geographic Partners and a vast collection of international channels. The industry is bracing for the impact of thousands of layoffs, estimated as high as 4,000, as the companies are consolidated.
Industry analysts recognize the climb ahead for Disney as it will have to soldier through a period of big losses of foregone licensing revenue for its movies and TV shows. The hit will be magnified by the need to invest even more in content overall to support the direct-to-consumer streaming platforms, which include Hulu, soon to be majority-owned by Disney, and ESPN+. Disney is banking on Fox’s content engines and deep vault of titles and IP — not to mention the management stars that come with the deal — to add heft to the content pipeline that will feed the new streaming services.
Perhaps one day the iconic Fox fanfare will return to the start of Star Wars film…