21st Century Fox is an American multinational mass media corporation that is based in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. It is one of two companies formed from the 2013 spin-off of the publishing assets of News Corporation, as founded by Rupert Murdoch in 1979.
21st Century Fox is the legal successor to News Corporation dealing primarily in the film and television industries. It is currently the United States fourth-largest media conglomerate after The Walt Disney Company, Comcast and Time Warner. The other company, the "new" News Corporation, holds Murdoch's print interests and other media assets in Australia (both owned by him and his family via a family trust with 39% controlling interest in each).
The company's assets include the Fox Entertainment Group—owners of the 20th Century Fox film studio (the company's partial namesake), Fox television network and Fox News Channel, among other assets. It also has significant foreign operations, including the pan-Asian pay channel operator Star TV, as well as an approximately 39% stake in Sky plc—a European operator of satellite television providers and pay channels in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Austria, Germany, and Italy.
On December 14, 2017, The Walt Disney Company announced plans to acquire 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion after the spin-off of certain businesses; this will include key assets such as 20th Century Fox, FX Networks, National Geographic Partners, its regional sports networks, and its international networks. Assets such as the Fox television network, Fox News Channel, and most of Fox Sports will be spun off into an independent company run by the Murdoch family.
21st Century Fox was formed by the splitting of entertainment and media properties from News Corporation. In February 2012, Natalie Ravitz accepted a position to become Rupert Murdoch’s Chief of Staff at News Corporation. News Corporation's board approved the split on May 24, 2013, while shareholders approved the split on June 11, 2013; the company completed the split on June 28 and formally started trading on the NASDAQ on July 1. Plans for the split were originally announced on June 28 2012, while additional details and the working name of the new company were unveiled on December 3 2012.
Murdoch stated that performing this split would "unlock the true value of both companies and their distinct assets, enabling investors to benefit from the separate strategic opportunities resulting from more focused management of each division." The move also came in the wake of a series of scandals that had damaged the reputation of the company's publishing operations in the United Kingdom. The split was structured so that the old News Corporation would change its name to 21st Century Fox and spin off its publishing assets into a "new" News Corporation.
While the company was originally announced as the Fox Group, on April 16, 2013, Murdoch announced the new name as a way to suggest the retaining of 20th Century Fox's heritage as the group advances into the future. Its logo was officially unveiled on May 9, 2013, featuring a modernized version of the iconic Fox searchlights. However, the 21st Century Fox brand does not extend to the existing 20th Century Fox division (which remains under its original name).
On January 8, 2014, Rupert Murdoch announced plans to delist 21st Century Fox's shares from the Australian Securities Exchange, in favor of solely trading on the NASDAQ. Its listing in Australia was a holdover from its period as News Corporation, and 21st Century Fox has relatively little presence in Australia, unlike News Corp. Murdoch stated that the changes, which were expected to be complete by June 2014, would "simplify the capital and operating structure" of 21st Century Fox and provide "improved liquidity" to shareholders. Also that month, the company acquired a majority ownership in YES Network, a New York regional sports network founded by the New York Yankees.
In June 2014, 21st Century Fox made a bid to acquire Time Warner, which had similarly spun off its publishing assets, for $80 billion in a cash and stock deal. The deal, which was rejected by Time Warner's board of directors in July 2014, would have also involved the sale of CNN to ease antitrust issues. On August 5, 2014, 21st Century Fox announced it had withdrawn its bid for Time Warner. The company's stock had fallen sharply since the bid was announced, prompting directors to announce 21st Century Fox would buy back $6 billion of its shares over the following 12 months.
On July 25, 2014, 21st Century Fox announced the sale of Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland to BSkyB for $9 billion, subject to regulatory and shareholder approval. Fox would use the money from the sale, along with $25 billion it received from Goldman Sachs, to attempt another bid for Time Warner.
In December 2014, Fox-owned television studio Shine Group merged with Apollo Global Management's Endemol and Core Media Group to form Endemol Shine Group, which is jointly owned by 21st Century Fox and Apollo.
On September 9, 2015, 21st Century Fox announced a for-profit joint venture with the National Geographic Society, National Geographic Partners, which took ownership of all of National Geographic media and consumer businesses, including National Geographic magazine, and the National Geographic-branded television channels that were already run as a joint venture with Fox. 21st Century Fox holds a 73% stake in the company.
On December 15, 2016, 21st Century Fox reached an agreement to take over the 61% of Sky that it did not already own. The company was valued at £18.5 billion. The deal was approved by the European Commission on April 7, 2017, followed by Ireland's Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment on June 27. However, the deal has become subject to scrutiny and an extended regulatory review in the United Kingdom, over concerns surrounding the plurality of British news media that will be owned by the Murdoch family post-merger (counting Sky News, as well as News Corp's newspapers and recent acquisition of radio station operator Wireless Group), and violations of British news broadcasting regulations connected to Sky's former carriage of Fox News Channel in the country.
The Kingdom Holding Company, owned by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, sold its minority stake in 21st Century Fox during the fiscal quarter ending September 2017. It previously held a 6% stake, which had been reduced to around 5% in 2015. The valuation of the shares, or who they were sold to, is unknown; Al-Waleed was the company's largest single shareholder behind the Murdoch family. The sale was reported after Al-Waleed was arrested in early-November 2017 as part of an anti-corruption probe by the Saudi government.
On December 14, 2017, after rumors of such a sale, The Walt Disney Company (which owns and operates ABC and ESPN) announced its intent to acquire 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion after the spin-off of certain businesses, pending regulatory approval.
Under the terms of the deal, 21st Century Fox will spin off the Fox Broadcasting Company, the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, the national operations of Fox Sports (such as Fox Sports 1 and FS2, and Big Ten Network, but excluding its regional sports networks), and Disney will acquire the remainder of 21st Century Fox. This will include key entertainment assets such as the 20th Century Fox film studio and its subsidiaries, a stake in Hulu, the U.S. pay television subsidiaries FX Networks, Fox Sports Networks, and National Geographic Partners, and international operations such as Star TV and Sky plc. The acquisition is primarily intended to bolster two over-the-top content endeavors being planned by Disney—including an ESPN-branded sports service and a Disney-oriented entertainment service. Disney will lease the 20th Century Fox backlot in Century City, Los Angeles for seven years.
The proposed transaction has raised antitrust issues, due to concerns that it could lead to a tangible loss in competition in the film and sports broadcasting industries. Several legal experts and industry analysts have expressed the opinion that the transaction is likely to receive regulatory approval, but would be scrutinized by regulators.
In February 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that Comcast, owner of NBCUniversal, was considering a counter-offer. Despite initially bidding $60 billion earlier, Fox had rejected the offer due to the possibility of antitrust concerns.
On March 15, 2018, Sky plc entered into a confidentiality agreement with both 21st Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company to assess and obtain certain antitrust plus other regulatory approvals, if necessary. On April 3, 2018, it was reported that Disney had made a separate offer to purchase Sky News in order to expedite 21st Century Fox's acquisition of Sky plc.
21st Century Fox's operations can be broadly categorized into four major reporting segments:
Among the divisions of the company is Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products which "licenses and markets properties worldwide" on behalf of a number of 21st Century Fox assets and third-parties.
On its formation in 2013, Murdoch was chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of the company, while Chase Carey took the posts of president and chief operating officer. Co-chairman and Co-CEO positions were created in 2014 and filled by Lachlan Murdoch and James Murdoch, respectively, both sons of Rupert Murdoch.
On July 1, 2015, Lachlan Murdoch was elevated to Co-Executive Chairman alongside his father and James Murdoch replaced his father as CEO. Former COO Chase Carey became Executive Vice Chairman.
21st Century Fox primarily consists of the media and broadcasting properties that were owned by its predecessor, such as the Fox Entertainment Group, STAR TV, and their 39.14% stake in Sky plc. News Corporation's broadcasting properties in Australia, such as Foxtel and Fox Sports Australia, remain a part of the newly renamed News Corp Australia—which was spun off with the new News Corp and is not a part of 21st Century Fox.