Disney scoops up Rupert Murdoch's Fox

Rupert Murdoch.
Rupert Murdoch. Photo credit: Getty

Australia's Rupert Murdoch spent decades cobbling together a media empire.

On Thursday, the octogenarian mogul announced plans to sell his film studio and much of his entertainment assets to Disney in a US$52.4 billion (NZ$75 billion) mega-deal.

The hope is the combined companies will give Disney the sprawling library of hit movies and shows it needs to compete with digital giants such as Netflix and Apple.

On a conference call shortly after the pact was announced, Mr Murdoch was adamant the sale does not signal a surrender.

"I know a lot of you are wondering why did the Murdochs come to such a momentous decision?" he said. "Are we retreating? Absolutely not. We are pivoting at a pivotal moment.

"We are paving the way for a new Fox and a transformed Disney to chart a course across a board frontier of opportunity."

As part of the deal, Fox shareholders will own 25 percent of the newly combined company. The transaction is expected to close by June 30, 2018.

Some Fox assets remain and will be reconstituted into a new company built around Fox News, Fox Business, Fox Broadcasting Co, and Fox Sports.

Mr Murdoch said that the moves mark "the next leg of our journey", while his sons, James and Lachlan Murdoch, said the streamlined company will be more nimble and better able to compete in a media landscape being upended by streaming and other online means of accessing content.

Lachlan Murdoch predicted that the new entity would be "disruptive" and hailed it as a "lean, aggressive, challenger brand".

James Murdoch added his own set of buzz words, stating, "We've always been interested in game changers. And we're a business of change and of challenge and of never being complacent, and this transaction, this creation of two new ventures for our shareholders, is a game-changer like no other."

The company is getting significantly smaller, which could theoretically hurt its negotiating powers.

"Fox News is something that no one can afford to drop," he said.

Despite father and sons' efforts to talk up a bold new vision for the future, the call with investors and analysts had an elegiac quality.

"Our journey started decades ago with a single newspaper in Adelaide, Australia," said Rupert Murdoch. "Through the efforts and energy of many we have grown into one of the most dynamic media companies in the world."

Soon much of that company will belong to Disney.

Reuters