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Volume 24 No. 219
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Sources: Disney's Bob Iger Likely To Stay On Past '19 If Fox Deal Completed

Disney Chair & CEO Bob Iger will "likely" stay on past his planned '19 retirement date if the company "wins its bid to buy the entertainment assets" of Fox, according to sources cited by Ben Fritz of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Sources said that Fox reps and Exec Chair Rupert Murdoch "requested as part of the potential sale" that Iger stay on past his planned July '19 retirement to "assist with the integration of assets ... and strategic repositioning of the combined businesses." If the deal "goes through, it likely wouldn’t close" until late '18. Iger has "previously announced four different retirement dates during his 12-year tenure" in '15, '16, '18 and '19. Disney’s BOD has "given no public signals that it has zeroed in on potential successors" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/7). In N.Y., Brooks Barnes reports speculation about who might succeed Iger has "increased in recent weeks." Reports have speculated 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch and Disney Parks & Resorts Chair Bob Chapek "could take Iger's place." Barnes: "In truth, Disney itself may not yet know for sure" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/7).

PLEASE DON'T GO: In L.A., Faughnder & James note investors have been "reluctant to see" Iger leave. He has "overseen a successful transformation of Disney through big-ticket acquisitions that paid off handsomely -- sending the company's stock soaring" (L.A. TIMES, 12/7). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Tara Lachapelle noted Disney's stock has "posted a more than 400% total return since Iger took over" in '05. Succession planning has been a "sore spot at Disney, and one would think the board would have a better handle on it now following the dramatic passage from Michael Eisner to Iger" in '05, which "nobody wants a repeat of." But sooner or later, Iger will have to "turn over management" to someone else who will "bring their own ideas about how to navigate the streaming world and further expand Disney." Lachapelle: "At what point does putting off the inevitable start to do more harm than good?" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 12/6). CNBC contributor Pete Najarian said Iger is “still the right man” to lead Disney. CNBC contributor Karen Finerman said Iger’s “stewardship has been outstanding” (“Fast Money,” CNBC, 12/6).

COMCAST NOT GIVING UP: In Philadelphia, Bob Fernandez reports Comcast and its Chair & CEO Brian Roberts have "not given up" on the Fox acquisition, which would be "larger than Comcast’s takeover" of NBCU in '11. Sources said that Roberts has a "keen interest in Fox’s global assets in Europe, India, and South America as Comcast has faced antitrust backlash." Sources noted that about 70% of the revenues associated with the Fox assets that could be sold are "related to international operations" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 12/7). VARIETY's Cynthia Littleton cited sources as saying that it seems "unlikely that the pursuit of Fox will erupt into an all-out bidding war" between Comcast and Disney given the latter's "determination and deep pockets." There is also the "perception that Comcast would have a harder time than Disney guiding an acquisition through the regulatory approval process at a time when the Justice Department has signaled its willingness to challenge media consolidation through its efforts to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger" (VARIETY.com, 12/6).

STREAM TEAM: In L.A., Meg James writes Disney's potential takeover of much of Fox could "provide an enormous boost to Disney’s ESPN sports empire." RSNs have "become highly lucrative because they draw ardent sports fans who want to connect with their local teams." Fox' RSNs "carry the games of 44 professional teams in three leagues." RSNs "often rank among the most popular cable channels, which increases their value." An analysis by Guggenheim Securities yesterday valued Fox' RSNs at $22.4B (L.A. TIMES, 12/7). THE STREET's Eric Jhonsa wrote "gaining control" of Fox' RSNs could do "wonders for the appeal of Disney's planned ESPN streaming service." it also "clearly spells a more serious rival to Netflix" (THESTREET.com, 12/6). Meanwhile, in London, Ed Malyon reported Netflix "will not be entering the bidding" for live EPL rights when the tender goes out for the '19-22 rights this month. A Netflix exec said, "We want to provide the best video storytelling across all genres, but it won't encompass live sports broadcasting." Facebook, however, is "considered a threat" after signaling its intent to "crash the market on live sports" (London INDEPENDENT, 12/6).