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Disney Chief Bob Iger, Murdochs Reassure Employees, Tout Historic Deal

Disney chief Bob Iger touted his company’s deal to buy the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets in a memo to staff Thursday, calling the sale “historic.” The Hollywood mogul went on to note that the pact will make Disney, which owns the likes of Pixar, Marvel, ABC, and ESPN, better able to compete in a time of major technological changes and consumer behavior.

“Bringing Disney and 21st Century Fox together will combine some of the world’s most iconic entertainment franchises along with great creative talent and a broad international presence to create a multi-faceted global entertainment company with the content, the platforms, and the reach to meet the growing demands of consumers around the world,” he wrote.

In a separate memo to staff, Fox founder Rupert Murdoch and his sons Lachlan and James tried to reassure worried employees about the future, even as they hinted that the merger might lead to job cuts.

“We of course appreciate that change brings uncertainty,” the Murdochs wrote. “While we do not yet know what these future changes will mean for our talented colleagues, we can tell you this: we are deeply committed to finding opportunities for our people as well as ensuring that anyone impacted is well taken care of.”

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Approval for the sale is expected to take between 12 to 18 months. As part of the deal, Disney will buy Fox’s film and television studio, as well as its stake in broadcaster BSkyB. The Murdochs are retaining Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox Sports, Fox News, Fox Television Stations and a handful of other assets and will reconstitute them into a new company.

Here is the full memo from Bob Iger:

I am very pleased to tell you that we have entered an agreement to acquire a truly stellar collection of entertainment businesses and franchises from 21st Century Fox. The deal includes 20th Century Fox Film and Television, along with a broad collection of valuable cable properties including FX Networks, the National Geographic channels, Fox Sports Regional Networks, Fox Networks Group International and Star India, as well as Fox’s interests in Hulu, Sky plc, Tata Sky, and Endemol Shine Group.

This is an historic move forward for us, one that reflects a rapidly evolving media landscape that is increasingly defined by transformative technology and consumer trends and expectations. Empowered by new and exciting technology, today’s consumers want more access to entertainment and information…and they want their entertainment experiences to be more compelling, easier to find, and easier to use.

Bringing Disney and 21st Century Fox together will combine some of the world’s most iconic entertainment franchises along with great creative talent and a broad international presence to create a multi-faceted global entertainment company with the content, the platforms, and the reach to meet the growing demands of consumers around the world.

We are very pleased with the prospect of gaining 21st Century Fox’s extensive international properties, which allow us to substantially enhance our global footprint with world-class offerings in key regions. Star India alone reaches 720 million viewers a month and Fox Networks Group International includes 350 channels in 170 different countries. Fox also owns 39% of Sky – one of the most successful and innovative television companies in Europe. They hope to close their purchase of the rest of that company next summer, which would give us a direct relationship with the nearly 23 million households Sky reaches in that region.

Given 21st Century Fox’s collection of valuable content and its direct-to-consumer capabilities and experience in The Americas, Europe, and Asia, this acquisition will expand our direct-to-consumer offerings and significantly accelerate our strategy in that direction. It will also give us controlling interest in Hulu, which opens up even greater potential for us to grow and enhance that platform. As I’ve said before, creating a direct relationship with consumers is vital to the future of our media businesses. It’s one of our highest priorities as a company, and for me it’s one of the most interesting and exciting aspects of this deal.

The combination of Fox’s creative properties with Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, ESPN, and ABC offers the opportunity for us to create even more compelling entertainment experiences and value propositions that appeal to a broad global audience.

On a personal note, I often say that leading this phenomenal company is the privilege of a lifetime, because I get to work with so many incredibly creative, dedicated, and inspiring people. The deal we announced today makes me even more optimistic and energized about our future, and I appreciate the opportunity to continue to lead you through this dynamic era of change and new possibilities. I remain completely awed by your collective talent and immensely grateful for your support as we write the next exciting chapter in Disney’s legendary story together.

Here is the full memo from Rupert, Lachlan, and James Murdoch:

Our journey started decades ago, and with your hard work, creativity and dedication, we’ve built and nurtured what has become 21st Century Fox – one of the most dynamic media companies in the world. Today, we launch the next great leg of our journey by announcing two transformative transactions, the new “Fox” and a combined Disney and Fox. Our sports, news and broadcast businesses will form the new Fox, a growth company centered on live news and sports brands and the strength of the Fox Network. The new Fox will be created through a spin-off of Fox Broadcasting, Fox News, Fox Business, FS1 and FS2, Big Ten Network (BTN) and our stations group. This company is already a leader many times over: Fox News is the long-time leading cable news network and more recently the #1 cable network. Fox Business is now the most watched business news channel. Fans look to FOX and Fox Sports as the long-term home of important sports leagues like the NFL, MLB and NASCAR and college conferences like the Big 10. And the FOX broadcast network and stations group are present in tens of millions of homes across this country providing Americans with live local news and sports. Fox’s mission will be to produce and deliver must-watch live news and sports content to households across America at a time when live content has never been more coveted.

Combining with Disney are 20th Century Fox Film, 20th Century Fox Television, FX Networks and Productions, the National Geographic Partners, Fox Sports Regional Sports Networks, Fox Networks Group International, Star India, and our interests in Hulu, Sky PLC, Tata Sky and Endemol Shine Group. We’ve long-admired what Disney has built, and like Fox, Disney boasts content assets that engage audiences around the world. Their parks and resorts business is a clear leader, as is their consumer products business. The scope of the new company’s combined storytelling, customer interactions, consolidated Hulu ownership and the international direct to consumer businesses at Sky and Star, will yield a formidable customer-driven company for the future.

You may be wondering how we came to this momentous decision. And the answer is simple – we’ve always made a commitment to deliver more choices for customers; provide great storytelling, news, challenging opinion and compelling sports. Through today’s announcements we are proud to recommit to that promise and enable our businesses to flourish for years to come. The new Fox and Disney are two of the world’s most iconic, relevant, and dynamic media companies, and they will each continue to be leaders in creating the very best experiences for consumers.

We of course appreciate that change brings uncertainty. While we do not yet know what these future changes will mean for our talented colleagues, we can tell you this: we are deeply committed to finding opportunities for our people as well as ensuring that anyone impacted is well taken care of. As the planning for these transactions gets underway, we will have more information to share with all of you. We encourage you to visit our Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.

In the meantime, it is important to remember that while we have agreed to these transactions, it will be 12-18 months before the spin-off and the combination with Disney are complete. Until then, we will continue to operate independently as we do now and there will be no related changes to your position or responsibilities. We encourage everyone to remain focused on continuing to deliver the outstanding and meaningful work we do here every day.

We want to reiterate our deep appreciation for everything you do to make this a special company, and we look forward to sharing updates with you.

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