Twenty-First Century Fox, the media empire steered by Rupert Murdoch, has made a $80 billion takeover offer to acquire CNN and HBO parent Time Warner, a deal that was rebuffed by the takeover target.
“21st Century Fox can confirm that we made a formal proposal to Time Warner last month to combine the two companies,” said spokesman Nathaniel Brown in a prepared statement. “The Time Warner Board of Directors declined to pursue our proposal. We are not currently in any discussions with Time Warner.”
The cash-and-stock offer from 21st Century Fox was to acquire all outstanding Time Warner shares for a combination of 1.531 21st Century Fox Class A non-voting shares and $32.42 in cash per share.
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The potential deal would merge two companies that have recently spun off their publishing assets to focus more on core television and film businesses. Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA) spun off News Corp. (NWSA), the owner of The Wall Street Journal and other print properties, roughly a year ago, while Time Warner recently unloaded Time Inc. (TIME), which owns People, Entertainment Weekly, Fortune and other magazine properties.
Time Warner, meanwhile, later Wednesday morning confirmed it had rejected the 21st Century Fox proposal, saying there was “significant risk and uncertainty” to 21st Century Fox’s ability to govern and manage the combined company.
“There are considerable strategic, operational, and regulatory risks to executing a combination with Twenty-First Century Fox,” the company said in a statement.
Earlier this month, Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes told Variety he didn’t know anything about reports that 21st Century Fox and potentially Google (GOOG) were eying a takeover of the media conglomerate.
At stake, if a takeover of Time Warner (TWX) were to occur, would be control of a media empire with a market capitalization of more than $63 billion. Time Warner’s current assets all focus on TV and film content. They are Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN, HBO and Warner Bros. Twenty-First Century Fox, meanwhile, controls the namesake film studio, as well as Fox News, Fox Business and Fox Sports.
Murdoch is a well known media mogul who also has established a track record of getting his way when it comes to acquiring prized media assets. For example, his $5 billion offer to buy Dow Jones & Co. in 2007 was a surprise bid for one of the nation’s last family-controlled newspaper companies. Though the Bancroft family, which owned a controlling stake in the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, put up a small fight, the family eventually agreed to a slightly larger takeover. Those print assets are now controlled by News Corp.
One notable takeover target slipped through Murdoch’s fingers, however. In 2011, News Corp. in its old form dropped a plan to take full ownership of satellite broadcaster BSkyB. That bid was sidelined as the company fended bad press in the United Kingdom due to a phone hacking scandal at a UK newspaper that has since been closed.
The New York Times, which cited people briefed on the matter for its report, said Fox indicated it would sell CNN to appease regulators — as Fox News and CNN directly compete. That could potentially lead to a bidding war for the well-known news channel.
Media stocks rose Wednesday on news of the rebuffed Time Warner offer.