Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of the 21st Century Fox entertainment assets hasn’t closed yet, but the companies already appear to be working on a deal in which Disney would sell back the regional sports networks to “New Fox.”
CNBC reports that “New Fox,” or simply “Fox,” is the front-runner to buy the 22 RSNs. The networks televise games featuring 44 professional teams from Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL.
Formal offers have yet to be made, the report notes, as Disney has only recently sent its bid book to prospective buyers.
“But people familiar with the process, who asked not to be named because the negotiations are private, say New Fox is the most serious buyer for all the networks,” CNBC reports. “That’s a cleaner outcome for Disney than selling the networks piecemeal, which would bring in smaller buyers and private equity firms.”
The report notes: “Disney is a motivated seller because it can’t get its larger deal for Fox done without divesting the networks. The Department of Justice forced Disney, which owns ESPN, to sell the networks to alleviate concerns about too much sports programming power in the hands of one company. In fact, the networks might never even change hands, depending on when Disney’s larger deal of Fox closes.”
The report notes that a sale back to New Fox would represent a coup for Rupert Murdoch, as the networks may be discounted by billions from their valuation as part of the larger Disney deal.