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21st Century Fox Expands National Geographic Partnership in $725 Million Deal

21st Century Fox is expanding its holdings in the National Geographic brand with a $725 million deal that adds the venerable magazine and other assets into the companies longstanding joint venture covering U.S. and international TV channels.

Under the deal, Fox will own 73% of the expanded National Geographic Partners entity, with the non-profit National Geographic Society owning the remaining 27%. National Geographic Partners will be governed by a board comprised of an equal number of Fox and Nat Geo Society representatives, with the chairman post alternating annually. Gary Knell, president-CEO of the Society, will serve as the first chairman.

Declan Moore, a 20-year National Geographic vet who has most recently served as chief media officer, has been named CEO of new entity.

“We are privileged to have the opportunity to expand our partnership to continue to bring to audiences around the world, ‘The world and all that is in it,’ as National Geographic Society’s second president Alexander Graham Bell stated more than a century ago. We believe in the Society’s mission of bringing the world to audiences through science, education and exploration,” Fox CEO James Murdoch said in announcing the deal.

Previously, Fox and the National Geographic Society were 70-30 partners two joint ventures, one covering international TV channels and one for U.S. channels. The new entity streamlines the partnership and adds the magazine, various production assets as well as a host of Nat Geo-branded digital properties, licensing and merchandising businesses.

“We’re working hard to focus our portfolio on brands that have unquestionable consumer appeal. This expanded partnership, bringing together all of the media and consumer activities under the National Geographic umbrella, one of the most treasured names in the world, creates vast opportunities and enables this business to be even more successful in a digital environment,” Murdoch said.

The agreement gives the National Geographic Society a $725 million influx that will grow its endowment to nearly $1 billion. Although the association of Fox with the prestigious magazine may raise hackles in some quarters, the partners emphasized that the deal will give the Nat Geo Society the resources it needs to further its mission of education, exploration and research.

Knell called said the deal with Fox amounted to a “virtuous cycle” of content creation for both sides.

“The value generated by this transaction, including the consistent and attractive revenue stream that National Geographic Partners will deliver, ensures that we will have greater resources for this work, which includes our grant making programs that support scientists and explorers around the world,” Knell said. “As media organizations work to meet the increasing demand for high quality storytelling across multiple platforms, it’s clear that the opportunity to grow by more closely aligning our branded content and licensing assets is the right path. We now will have the scale and reach to continue to fulfill our mission long into the future. The Society’s work will be the engine that feeds our content creation efforts, enabling us to share that work with even larger audiences and achieve more impact. It’s a virtuous cycle.”

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