Disney Sets March 20 Closing Date for 21st Century Fox Acquisition


Disney has set March 20 as the closing date for its acquisition of 21st Century Fox.

Disney announced the formal closing process Tuesday morning, indicating that the company has received the last major approval for the deal from regulators in Mexico. Disney said current 21st Century Fox shareholders will have until 5 p.m. ET Thursday to choose the amount of cash and Disney stock to receive in the $71.3 billion transaction.

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Disney said it expects the historic union of two of Hollywood’s pioneering studios to “become effective at 12:02 a.m. Eastern time on March 20.” The completion of the Disney-21st Century Fox deal also signals the emergence on March 19 of Fox Corporation, the new entity to emerge from the 21st Century Fox assets that Disney is not buying. Disney is also assuming about $13.8 billion in net debt from 21st Century Fox.

21st Century Fox shareholders will receive a mix of cash and stock valued at $38 a share in the Disney deal. Disney said last year when it announced the revised deal with Fox — after Comcast made an unsolicited run at 21st Century Fox — that it expects to pay about $35.7 billion in cash and issue 343 million new Disney shares to finance the transaction.

Disney put a stock collar provision in the deal to adjust the stock exchange ratio higher if Disney’s share price dropped below $93.53 at the time or lower if Disney shares surpassed $114.32 at the time of the deal closing. On Monday, Disney shares closed at $114.75.

The closing date puts a clear timeline on what is expected to be an industry-changing consolidation of media and entertainment assets under Disney’s umbrella. The integration of the companies is projected to lead to as many as 4,000 layoffs as overlapping operations are eliminated and resources are reallocated to support Disney’s top priority of launching the Disney Plus global streaming platform later this year.

Disney has already outlined the leadership plan for its film and TV units. Emma Watts will continue in her role as vice chairman of 20th Century Fox, reporting to Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. Fox Searchlight chiefs Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula and Fox 2000 president of production Elizabeth Gabler will continue in their roles, reporting to Horn.

In television, 21st Century Fox president Peter Rice shifts to chairman of Walt Disney Television and co-chair of Disney’s Media Networks unit. Reporting to Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger, Rice will oversee all aspects of Disney’s worldwide television operations other than ESPN, which is headed by Jimmy Pitaro.

Fox’s Dana Walden will shift to chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment. FX Networks’ John Landgraf retains his perch as does Gary Knell will serve as chairman of National Geographic Partners. Walden, Landgraf and Knell report to Rice.

Last week, Disney recruited Warner Bros. TV alum Craig Hunegs to serve as president of Disney Television Studios, reporting to Walden.

Now that the deal closing is in sight, the nitty-gritty aspects of blending people and culture is about to begin.

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