The proposed acquisition of 21st Century Fox by The Walt Disney Company was cast in doubt earlier today when rival contender Comcast returned to battle and tabled a substantial, all-cash bid for the rights to intellectual properties owned by the Rupert Murdoch-founded company.
As part of the historic deal, Disney would acquire 21st Century Fox's critically acclaimed film production businesses, including 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox 2000 - the homes of Avatar, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Deadpool, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Hidden Figures, Gone Girl, The Shape of Water, The Martian and much more.
James Murdoch, the 21st Century Fox chief executive, is planning to strike out on his own if Fox's pending deal to sell much of the company to Walt Disney Co. closes, most likely by starting a venture-capital fund to invest in digital and global media businesses, according to people familiar with the matter.
Some of the leading companies and disruptors in movies and television, like Netflix and Amazon, have introduced a new vertical business model that Comcast and Disney are desperate to acquire for themselves - the ability to create and delivery their products directly to the consumer.
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But now that Comcast is reportedly interested, this could change. This would put the media giant ahead of Disney's current bid of $52 billion. Disney is going to be launching its own video streaming services in 2019.
Disney in December had offered to buy film, television and worldwide businesses from Fox for $52.4 billion in stock to beef up its offering against streaming rivals Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc.
Comcast has so far made the higher offer, at ￡12.5 a share compared with Fox's ￡10.75.
Chief Executive Bob Iger, on a conference call with analysts, said the company would consider expanding its parks business in China and other markets. The outcome of the case, which is expected to be announced in June, will determine whether or not Comcast makes the bid. Murdoch, too, would be in a tight spot because he would have to justify for shareholders accepting a lower amount when Comcast was offering more money.