Disney CEO Iger says $71.3B Fox deal closing ‘soon’

Bob Iger and Rupert Murdoch
Disney CEO Bob Iger (left) and 21st Century Fox Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch (right). (The Walt Disney Company)

More than a year after Disney originally announced a deal to buy 21st Century Fox, CEO Bob Iger is assuring investors that the deal will be closing “soon.”

That’s according to Variety, which said Iger gave the update while addressing shareholders Thursday in St. Louis. He also said that Disney will immediately be ready to take advantage of the Fox assets it’s buying including 20th Century Fox, FX Networks and National Geographic.

“Our new corporate structure is designed to integrate these assets and maximize long-term value,” Iger said, according to the publication. “We spent most of (last) year on integration planning so we’ll hit the ground running as soon as the deal closes.”

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While the Disney deal closing could mark the end of a long saga for some, it may open new concerns for others. Earlier this week, Variety published a report citing Disney and Fox insiders who said that as many as 4,000 jobs could be cut in the process of integrating Fox’s assets into Disney’s operations. As Disney sniffs out $2 billion in cost synergies, the marketing, sales and distribution divisions within Fox’s film studios could be the hardest hit by job cuts.

RELATED: Disney ups Fox bid to $71.3B in new half-stock, half-cash bid

For Disney, the closure of its Fox deal could add a new sense of urgency to selling off Fox’s 22 regional sports networks. Last year, the Justice Department mandated that Disney divest the RSNs as a condition for approval of the transaction. The DOJ is giving Disney a minimum of 90 days (with the possibility of extending the deadline by another 90 days) after closing the Fox deal to secure a sale of the RSNs.

That means Disney will have to find a buyer (or buyers) for the RSNs by about mid-June.

Earlier this year, New Fox officially ruled out bidding for the networks, which were valued at approximately $20 billion within the construct of Disney’s deal for Fox.

A new report from the New York Post suggests that rapper-actor Ice Cube, who created basketball league BIG3, is bringing in more investors to back his bid for the majority of the RSNs. Macquarie Group and entrepreneur Carolyn Rafaelian, along with previously announced investor Centerbridge Partners, are pitching in to fund a $10 billion bid for 21 of the networks.

As the report points out, the New York Yankees are expected to buy back YES Network.

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