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Bob Iger: ‘Challenging Work of Uniting Our Businesses’ Lies Ahead for Disney

Bob Iger marked the historic occasion of Disney’s purchase of 21st Century Fox with a lengthy memo to staffers that was candid about the challenges of the massive integration of people and cultures that lies ahead for the media giant.

“I wish I could tell you that the hardest part is behind us, that closing the deal was the finish line rather than just the next milestone,” Iger wrote in the note titled “A Historic Day for Our Company,” sent to staffers shortly before 10 p.m. PT on Tuesday, less than an hour after the $71.3 billion transaction formally closed. “What lies ahead is the challenging work of uniting our businesses to create a dynamic global entertainment company with the content, the platforms and the reach to deliver industry-defining experiences that will engage consumers around the world for generations to come.”

Employees from the 21st Century Fox ranks also received a message from Disney’s HR department offering a list of “Day One Essentials” for adjusting to the new company. Iger did not directly reference the sizable number of layoffs to come as Disney and Fox consolidate redundant operations and restructure others, but he acknowledged that changes are on the horizon. Estimates of the number of job cuts across the enlarged Disney and the slimmed-down Fox Corp., which formally opened its doors Tuesday, have ranged from 2,000 to as high as 4,000.

“Our integration process will be an evolution, with some businesses impacted more than others,” Iger wrote. “We’ve made many critical decisions already, but some areas still require further evaluation. We may not have answers to all of your questions at this moment but we understand how vital information is, and we’re committed to moving as quickly as possible to provide clarity regarding how your role may be impacted.”

As Disney and 21st Century Fox became one, staffers from one of Disney’s newly acquired divisions — FX Networks — gathered Tuesday night at New York’s Bowery Hotel for the after-party following the premiere screening of “What We Do in the Shadows,” the half-hour vampire dramedy set to premiere March 27.

The macabre motif at the party — guests strolled past a man lying in a coffin on the way in — seemed appropriate as the Fox era passed into history for FX staffers.

Some expressed a sense of melancholy at the transition. One executive even took a long look at his Fox corporate ID badge and wondered out loud if it would still work on Wednesday. Others expressed the widely held view in Hollywood that FX’s corporate association with Fox News had become untenable, from both a moral standpoint and from a business point of view. “Good riddance,” said an FX staffer.

Here is Iger’s full memo:

I’m proud to announce the acquisition is complete and 21st Century Fox is now part of the Walt Disney Company. I’d like to welcome our new colleagues, and thank employees on both sides of the deal for your patience and perseverance as we worked through the lengthy acquisition and regulatory process.

As you know, Disney has never been short on ambition. We’ve never been satisfied with the status quo, and our vision for this transformative era is our boldest yet. We are rapidly transforming our company to take full advantage of evolving consumer trends and emerging technology in order to thrive in this new and exciting time.

Our acquisition of 21st Century Fox was driven by our strong belief that the addition of these great businesses, brands, franchises and talent will allow us to move faster, reach farther and aim higher, especially when it comes to building direct connections with consumers.

I wish I could tell you that the hardest part is behind us, that closing the deal was the finish line rather than just the next milestone. What lies ahead is the challenging work of uniting our businesses to create a dynamic global entertainment company with the content, the platforms and the reach to deliver industry-defining experiences that will engage consumers around the world for generations to come.

We’ve spent the past year exploring the new opportunities and synergies generated by bringing our two legendary companies together. Leaders across both organizations have worked closely together to understand how to best unlock this potential and unleash innovation and creativity to generate long-term growth. We’re confident in our integration strategy and in our ability to execute it effectively; and we’re inspired and energized by the new possibilities.

Our integration process will be an evolution, with some businesses impacted more than others. We’ve made many critical decisions already, but some areas still require further evaluation. We may not have answers to all of your questions at this moment but we understand how vital information is, and we’re committed to moving as quickly as possible to provide clarity regarding how your role may be impacted.

Having been on both sides of numerous acquisitions during my career, I have deep appreciation for how this one impacts everyone involved, on both a personal and professional level. I understand the challenges, and I ask for your continued patience in the days to come as we combine this collection of great assets to create the world’s premier entertainment company.

Bob

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