Rupert Murdoch is many things (including ‘inspiring’ a certain Bond villain.) A business veteran and a media tycoon, Murdoch is used to getting his way. But that trend might soon be cut short with Fox shareholders not taking his side if Comcast makes a better deal than Disney.
Disney has it all now. Star Wars, Avengers and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA) Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch by its side. So it was natural that when Murdoch orchestrated a $52-billion deal by Disney to buy Fox, he expected no challenge.
Yet, according to latest reports, several investors are said to be considering a much higher Comcast offer if the broadcaster makes an all-cash bid for the throne. This ‘secret’ challenger bid is estimated at $60 billion. That’s quite a lot of money for keeping X-Men away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This will naturally pit Murdoch against other shareholders, for the tycoon might face a mammoth capital gains tax if Comcast (CMCSA) emerges the winner. Being Fox’s largest stakeholder, it’s a no-brainer that we won’t go for that.
To put it into perspective, if you live in New York, you’ll be taxed up to 30% if you accept the Comcast bid. Now imagine that you own 17% stake in Fox.
X-Men might get too hot for the Avengers
If Comcast wins, Marvel fans will join Murdoch in sharing the disappointment. For it would mean that they will never see their favorite Avengers join hands with Fox-owned fellow Marvel comic-book superhero groups X-Men and Fantastic Four on any visual medium.
Early this decade, Marvel comics came out with a series pitting the X-Men against The Avengers, which garnered some attention in the comic-book world. Comcast, as a broadcaster and a content creator, can isolate these properties from its Marvel’s cinematic and TV universes, thus bringing the Disney conglomeration some unwanted hiccups.
Murdoch vs. Fox investors
Taking special voting rights into consideration, Murdoch and family own at least 39% stake in Fox. However, they will only have 17% of the vote in accordance with the company bylaws. So all it takes is a group of determined shareholders to stick it to the media tycoon in the vote early in June.
Comcast’s previous $34.41-a-share bid was rejected by Fox over antitrust issues, even when it was much higher than the $29.54-per-share Disney bid. If AT&T’s (T) currently stalled $85-billion bid for Time Warner (TWX) goes through, Comcast will get the push it needs to pursue Fox more than ever.
What the cable operator is thinking is yet to be revealed, but as for now, the only way to bring Murdoch to the fold would be a much higher pre-tax bid by Comcast. If that happens, what follows at the home of Avengers and Star Wars would be fun to watch. May the force be with the free market.