21st Century Fox leaders James and Lachlan Murdoch were tight-lipped about the drama swirling around its pending $52.4 billion sale of key assets to Disney now that Comcast has stepped up its rival maneuvers.
But Fox CEO James Murdoch did offer his opinion that Comcast should have to run the gauntlet of regulatory processes in the U.K. as it pursues a counterbid for the Sky satellite TV platform. Fox has been trying to buy up the remaining 61% of Sky that it does not own for more than a year. Comcast last month unveiled a rival $31 billion offer for Sky, a move seen as the first step to fielding a competing bid against Disney for the remaining assets on the block.
James Murdoch said Fox is still “considering our options” in light of the Comcast bid that puts a higher value on Sky than the agreement Fox reached in December 2016. And he expressed optimism that Fox’s purchase of Sky will be blessed by regulators “within a month or two.”
In that context, it’s no surprise Murdoch would be in favor of tough scrutiny of the potential for anti-competitive outcomes if Comcast were to purchase Sky. That would help run out the clock in Fox’s favor, although there is no doubt Sky shareholders have to engage with Comcast given the higher offer on the table.
“Comcast has just begun its regulatory process and we think it’s very reasonable for Comcast to undergo a robust regulatory review which could take months,” Murdoch said Wednesday during a call with analysts to discuss Fox’s fiscal third-quarter earnings. “The Comcast review would be appropriate given the important role Sky and Sky News play in the U.K. media market.”
Murdoch wouldn’t give any hints as to Fox’s next move in regard to Sky or the potential for a larger fight to erupt over the 21st Century Fox assets. Nor did he address the report that surfaced Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal asserting that he has let it be known that he will not have a management role at Disney should the Fox sale be completed.
“Given Comcast’s bid for Sky, we’re considering our options with a further announcement to be made in due course,” Murdoch said.