The Murdoch family and their investor constituents are open to Comcast’s $60 billion all-cash bid for 21st Century Fox, according to media investment analyst Richard Greenfield, who has frequently criticized Disney.
Disney, of course, is the company that already had an agreement to buy Fox before Comcast swooped back into the picture last month.
Speaking to Cheddar, Greenfield quoted “several sources familiar with the matter" in saying, “I think a lot of people have said not only is [Rupert Murdoch, the octogenarian patriarch of Fox’s controlling family] focused only on selling to Disney but he really wants Disney stock and wants to be a long-term owner. We believe that is factually incorrect.”
“Rupert, like his shareholders, are now fully aligned and simply want the best possible outcome,” Greenfield added. “I think this is a real opening for Comcast.”
Disney forged an agreement in December to buy the lion's share of Fox assets for $52 billion in stock. Those assets include cable networks FX, FXX and National Geographic, 21 regional sports networks, Fox’s 30% stake in Hulu and movie and TV production studios. Also included is Fox’s 39% share in UK satellite TV company Sky. (Comcast is locked in a bidding war with Fox to buy the other 61% of Sky.)
For their part, Greenfield and The Walt Disney Company haven’t been the best of friends lately, with Disney chief executive Bob Iger even blocking the profile-seeking analyst on Twitter last year.
Of course, the last time Comcast tried to float a huge deal by U.S. regulators, it was unceremoniously rebuffed, with the FCC and Justice Department balking at its 2014-15 effort to buy Time Warner Cable.
And the DOJ is currently suing AT&T to stop it from buying another big media company, Time Warner Inc. Talking to Cheddar, Greenfield seems to enthusiastically rationalize how it’ll be different this time for Comcast.
"Most of the government’s case against AT&T-Time Warner has been that it’s national," he said. "Putting a national company together with content is problematic from an antitrust perspective."
"Comcast is not a national company, they’re a regional player,” Greenfield added. “So there is, potentially, still a very clear path for a Comcast-Fox merger to be approved by regulators even if AT&T-Time Warner is not approved."