By Christopher Palmeri and Nabila Ahmed
Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox shareholders have approved the sale of the company’s entertainment assets to Walt Disney, moving one of the biggest media mergers in history nearer to completion.
Both companies’ investors gave their blessings to the $71.3bn (€61bn) transaction in separate votes at the New York Hilton Midtown in Manhattan. It’s expected to close in the first half of next year, according to Fox.
Upon completion, a new Fox will emerge focused on broadcast TV, sports, and the Fox News Channel.
Neither of the two companies’ leaders made an appearance. Fewer than 70 people showed up for the Fox meeting. One shareholder read an ode to Fox’s executive chairman. “Nobody does it like Rupert Murdoch,” he said. “I love Rupert Murdoch.”
At the Disney meeting, 99% of Disney investors who voted approved the deal.
During a brief question and answer period, one said Disney overpaid by as much as $10bn. The meeting lasted less than 10 minutes.
Disney chief executive Robert Iger now must turn his attention to the deal’s many loose ends. The many challenges include winning regulatory approval in the US and deciding the future ownership of broadcaster Sky. Although Comcast said last week it won’t continue bidding for Fox’s assets, the cable TV giant has the highest offer on the table for Sky at $34bn.
Disney is acquiring 39% of Sky through the deal with Fox and still technically has a bid on the table for the broadcaster. Some analysts have suggested Iger may cede Sky to Comcast, freeing Disney from the $19bn or so it would take to purchase the rest of the business.