Date Set for 21st Century Fox Shareholders to Vote on Disney Deal

Posted May 30, 2018 2:45 p.m. EDT

LOS ANGELES — A firmer timeline for the expected tug-of-war for 21st Century Fox has been established.

Fox on Wednesday set a date — July 10 — for shareholders to vote on its $52.4 billion plan to sell most of its assets to the Walt Disney Co. The special meeting is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. at the New York Hilton Midtown in Manhattan. Disney shareholders will simultaneously vote on the plan 12 blocks away at the New Amsterdam Theater.

That puts pressure on Comcast, which said in a news release last week that “it is considering, and is in the advanced stages of preparing, an offer for the businesses of Fox that Fox has agreed to sell to Disney.” Comcast has been waiting to make its bid public — it said the bid would be all cash and at a premium to the value of Disney’s current all-share offer — until a judge decided whether AT&T’s $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner can move forward.

A decision in that antitrust case is expected by June 12. Comcast believes that a favorable outcome for AT&T would lessen regulatory concerns about a potential tie-up with Fox.

Disney, which has a long regulatory head start because its deal for Fox was submitted in December, has been lining up financing in case it needs to change its bid from all stock, according to a CNBC report on Tuesday that was confirmed by a person briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the effort is private. A Disney spokeswoman declined to comment.

Fox on Wednesday acknowledged Comcast’s renewed interest — Comcast made a bid in the fall that Fox rejected because of regulatory concerns — and noted that the special meeting could be postponed or adjourned if a new offer legally requires Fox to send shareholders supplementary material or disclosures.

Under its deal with Disney, Fox is selling stakes in two behemoth overseas television providers, Sky of Britain and Star of India; a portion of Hulu; the cable channels FX and National Geographic; a chain of 22 regional cable networks dedicated to sports; a television studio with more than 30 series in production; a portion of the Endemol Shine Group, which makes reality shows; and the 20th Century Fox movie studio, which controls the “Avatar” and “X-Men” franchises.

Comcast, the largest cable and broadband provider in the United States, wants Fox’s overseas businesses in particular — so much so that it made a $31 billion offer last month for the 61 percent of Sky that Fox doesn’t already own.

To complicate matters, Fox is also bidding for that piece of Sky. Whether Fox moves forward depends on a ruling from the British government that is due on June 13.