Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Is Back for the Rest of Sky

December 15, 2016, 1:31 PM UTC
Murdoch, News Corp. and 21st Century Fox CEO, speaks during the annual Lowy Lecture at the Sydney Town Hall
Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. and 21st Century Fox CEO, speaks during the annual Lowy Lecture at the Sydney Town Hall October 31, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray/File photo - RTX2V6FC
David Gray — Reuters

Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX) said Thursday it had agreed to buy European pay-TV firm Sky for $14.6 billion, sticking to its earlier offer despite complaints from some investors.

Fox said it would pursue a Scheme of Arrangement, meaning it would need the backing of 75 percent of Sky’s independent shareholders who vote to secure a deal that values Sky at 18.5 billion pounds ($23 billion) in total.

Seeking to consolidate his media empire across Europe and the U.S., Murdoch is buying the 61 percent of Sky he does not already own to fully acquire its 22 million customers in Britain, Ireland, Italy, Germany and Austria.

The two firms said last Friday they had struck a preliminary deal.

But the price of 10.75 pounds per share, representing a premium of around 40 percent on the day before the initial proposal was received, disappointed several top 50 shareholders who accused Sky of selling out to their founder and biggest shareholder too cheaply.

People familiar with the matter have told Reuters that Fox pounced after Britain’s vote to leave the EU in June sent the pound down about 15 percent against the U.S. dollar and Sky’s share price tumbling.

“The enhanced capabilities of the combined company will be underpinned by a more geographically diverse and stable revenue base,” Fox said in a statement. “This combination creates an agile organization that is equipped to better succeed in a global market.”

The agreed deal come five years after Murdoch failed in a previous bid to buy Sky, when a newspaper phone hacking scandal at one of his tabloids derailed a previous offer.

Since then, the 85-year-old media mogul has split his business into two parts, with Fox housing the TV assets and News Corp home to his newspapers, including The Sun and The Times of London.

Competition lawyers and analysts believe the new structure should be enough to alleviate concerns over media plurality, but critics will argue that despite the split, Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan still control both firms.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley now has two weeks to decide whether the deal violates the public interest in so far as it relates to media plurality.