The two parts of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire are discussing a merger nearly a decade after they split.
The merger would combine Murdoch’s Fox News and TMZ assets with News Corp’s newspaper and online news businesses, including the Times and the Sun in the UK, the Wall Street Journal and New York Post in the US, and the Australian.
In a press release, News Corp confirmed that following instructions from Murdoch and the Murdoch Family Trust, the companies have formed a special committee “composed of independent and disinterested members of the board”[ads1]; to begin exploring a potential combination.
The Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that News Corp’s CEO, Robert Thomson, had informed employees of the potential merger.
“At News Corp, we are constantly pursuing ways to improve performance and grow our businesses, and the upheaval in media presents both challenges and opportunities,” he wrote in a note. “But I want to emphasize that the special committee has not made any decision at this time, and there can be no certainty that any transaction will result from the evaluation.”
After years of global expansion, Murdoch split his empire in 2013, placing the print business into a newly created public entity, News Corp, and television and entertainment under 21st Century Fox.
Murdoch said at the time that his vast media holdings had become “increasingly complex” and that a new structure would simplify operations. The split also shielded Fox’s entertainment assets from any potential financial fallout from a phone-hacking scandal involving the media conglomerate’s now-defunct News of the World publication in the UK.
The thinking at the time was that separating the companies would ultimately generate value for shareholders, according to a person familiar with the decision-making process. That vision was realized when Fox sold the bulk of its film and television assets to Walt Disney for $71 billion in 2019.
The sale led Fox to focus on live events such as news and sports, rather than “interruptible” scripted entertainment content on its streaming platforms, Wall Street analysts observed at the time.
However, the major streaming services have begun to breach the protective moat. Apple and Amazon, two tech giants with huge financial resources, have started bidding on sports, securing rights to stream Major League Baseball, football and soccer games.
Fox recently renewed a long-term deal with the NFL to continue broadcasting Sunday afternoon games, but relinquished Thursday Night Football to Amazon.
Reuniting Fox and News Corp would give the combined companies greater scale to compete and complement their assets, the person familiar with the proposal said. The combined companies will have around $24 billion in revenue.
Murdoch, 91, currently holds near-controlling stakes in both companies. His son Lachlan Murdoch is chairman and CEO of Fox Corp. Companies that adopt such arrangements typically make subsequent mergers subject to the approval of a majority of shareholders unrelated to their controlling shareholder, although it is not clear whether this will be the case in this case.
At the close on Friday, News Corp had a market capitalization of $9.31 billion and Fox Corp had a market capitalization of $16.84 billion. News Corp shares rose 5% and Fox rose about 1% in after-market trading.
Reuters contributed to this story