Comcast said Tuesday that it now owns more than 75% of Sky having acquired shares and closed a deal for Fox’s 39.1% stake in the pay-TV giant. The process of delisting Sky from the London Stock Exchange will now get underway and is set to be completed by Nov. 7. James Murdoch is among those who have resigned from the board in the wake of Fox selling its stake.
“We are pleased today to be the majority owner of Sky,” Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. “Led by Jeremy Darroch and his superb team – now together with Comcast – our combined global leadership in technology and content paves the way for us to accelerate investment and growth in Sky’s brand and premier platforms.”
In the same week that U.K. culture secretary Jeremy Wright underlined his expectations regarding the Sky News channel after the change of ownership – “I’ve left them in no doubt at all about the importance of editorial independence and Sky News,” he said – Roberts addressed the issue.
“We are also fully committed to ensuring Sky News’ future, maintaining its editorial independence, and preserving its strong track record for trusted, high quality, impartial news,” he said.
Comcast said the independent Sky board, including CEO Jeremy Darroch, have sold their shares in the company to its new owner, which currently holds 76.84% of Sky stock. Its £17.28 per share offer remains open and will do so until Comcast gives 14 days’ notice to the contrary.
“Comcast have committed to investment in Sky, including our Osterley and European headquarters and we very much look forward to working with Brian and the Comcast team to achieve further growth and development of Sky’s business,” Darroch said in a statement.
He also spoke about Sky’s news network. “Separately, Sky News will benefit greatly from Comcast’s funding commitments over the coming years and the arrangements that will be put in place to preserve and enhance its editorial independence,” he said.
With Fox offloading its stake, James Murdoch, a former Sky CEO, has resigned from the board of Sky. Chase Carey has also left the board, as have Martin Gilbert, Andy Sukawaty, Tracy Clarke, and Katrin Wehr-Seiter. Sky said that Matthieu Pigasse and Adine Grate have agreed to remain on the board for the time being. James Conyers, Sky’s group general counsel, has joined the board.
Comcast prevailed in the twist-laden battle for control for Sky with a bumper $39 billion bid. It beat Fox in a dramatic blind auction for Sky, which has major operations in the U.K. and Ireland, Austria and Germany, and Italy. It has also launched streaming services in Switzerland and Spain.