DealBook Briefing: Guessing What Rupert Murdoch’s Next Act Will Be

Good Friday morning. Rupert Murdoch has dismantled his decades old empire — now what? Marco Rubio is the newest potential holdout on the Republican tax overhaul. And the fight is on, over the repeal of net neutrality rules.

The media tycoon has received accolades from all corners for yesterday’s deal to sell the bulk of his 21st Century Fox to The Walt Disney Company — including from President Trump himself. (More on that in a moment.) But what will Mr. Murdoch’s next act look like?

For now, it appears to be a doubling down on the business nearest and dearest to his heart, the news.

Here’s what Mr. Murdoch told analysts on a call yesterday:

That may also mean acquisitions: His son Lachlan suggested on that call that while the new Fox would initially focus on Fox News and live sports, it may explore other ways to grow.

What if another suitor comes calling?

Andrew has heard that in the media world, speculation is rising that someone else might come in to top Disney’s offer — perhaps a combination of a buyers that would split up Fox assets. There’s little to prevent that from happening: yesterday’s deal has a $1.5 billion breakup fee if a higher bid emerges, and Disney has only customary matching rights.

But how much better would that rival offer need to be? Comcast had offered more than Disney, but the Murdochs believed that Disney — whose stock trades at a higher earnings multiple and was likely to go higher as a result of the deal — was a better bet, Michael has heard.

Keep these in mind

• About Mr. Trump’s apparent support for the deal: Several antitrust experts said that the Fox transaction would represent significant concentration of market power. (NYT, CNN)

• Robert Iger of Disney could receive as much as $142 million worth of stock at the current share price. (WSJ)

• Will Hulu, the online streaming service that would be majority-owned by Disney after the deal grow — or shrink? (LAT, Recode)

Critics’ corner

• Tara Lachapelle writes, “As for the Murdochs, there must be a master plan that they aren’t sharing yet.” (Gadfly)

• Elizabeth Winkler writes, “Yet Disney’s brand is powerful around the world. The deal is a bet that it will be able to unlock more value from Sky and Star than Fox has.” (Heard on the Street)

• Joe Nocera writes, “I hate to be the skunk at the garden party, but Iger better hope this deal isn’t his legacy.” (Bloomberg View)

• Lex (going overboard on “Star Wars” allusions) writes, “M. & A. can do nothing to help incumbents if trustbusters still see disruptive competition as being far, far away, as it was a long time ago.” (Lex)


Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin in New York, and Michael J. de la Merced and Amie Tsang in London.


• A. G. Sulzberger will become the NYT’s publisher on Jan. 1, as his father, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., steps down from that role. The elder Mr. Sulzberger will remain chairman of The New York Times Company. (NYT)

• Sinclair is likely to win the Justice Department’s blessing to buy Tribune Media — so long as it sells roughly a dozen TV stations, according to unidentified people. (WSJ)

• “Business Insider Inc.” is dead. Meet “Insider Inc.” (WSJ)

Everyone wants to see if the senator, a Florida Republican, will actually vote no against the newly reconciled tax overhaul, on the grounds that he favors an expanded child care tax credit. (Senator Mike Lee of Utah is on the fence for the same reason.)

They’re the latest senators to emerge as potential holdouts. Bob Corker of Tennessee voted against the previous Senate bill and was expected to do so again. Susan Collins of Maine appears to be on board, notwithstanding those teary protests by constituents.

Issue no. 1: Republican leaders are constrained in how much revenue they can free up to pay for an expanded tax credit.

Issue no. 2: Critics say that Mr. Rubio doesn’t have a great track record of challenging his party’s leadership.

Issue no. 3: A new survey, from the liberal Public Policy Polling, found that just 29 percent of Americans questioned said they supported the proposed tax change.

Extra credit: This NYT graphic illustrates which states could be hurt when federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program starts to run out next month.

Among those seeking to challenge the F.C.C., which voted yesterday to repeal the Obama-era regulations:

• Several Democratic lawmakers

• Democratic state attorneys general, including Eric T. Schneiderman of New York

• Advocacy groups like Public Knowledge and the Internet Association, which represents tech companies like Google and Facebook

The F.C.C. chairman Ajit Pai, who mocked criticism of his net neutrality stance in an absurdist video (that featured him in a Santa outfit and, later, swinging a lightsaber), vigorously defended the repeal before the vote. “We are helping consumers and promoting competition,” he said.

How Jim Chanos might trade on the F.C.C.’s move

He said that he was looking at entertainment providers like Netflix and raised the question of whether net neutrality would affect their business.

Here’s what he told CNBC yesterday:

Amid his ongoing battle against accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment, the venture capitalist said that he had left Sherpa Capital to focus on fighting “the smear campaign” against him.

The investor has made noises about a lot of legal defenses, including by suing a political opposition research shop that he has accused of trying to besmirch his reputation.

More in sexual misconduct news

• Representative Blake Farenthold, Republican of Texas, said that he won’t run for re-election as he faced accusations of sexual harassment and of fostering a frat-house atmosphere in his office. (NYT)

• Thousands of Interior Department employees reported experiencing harassment or intimidation at work, a problem that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said was “a breach of public trust” that he vowed to fix. (NYT)

• Alex Kozinski, a well-known federal judge accused of harassing female clerks and staff members over the years, should resign, the NYT editorial board has argued. (NYT)

Amid news reports about China exerting its power around the world in more aggressive ways — including reportedly paying off politicians in other countries — the Economist this week says the West should push back.

More from the Economist’s lead editorial:

A beleaguered Chinese conglomerate soldiers on

Goldman Sachs and Bank of America won’t work with it anymore. Investors are starting to feel spooked. But HNA is still doing deals — with help from its country’s lenders.

Several Chinese lenders have indicated that they could extend HNA’s credit lines despite concerns that the conglomerate has spent too much on foreign acquisitions, at least according to HNA.

The China flyaround

• China’s venture capital community has a problem: It’s overcrowded. (WSJ)

• Huawei and Xiaomi are in talks with wireless operators in the U.S. about selling flagship smartphones there as soon as next year. (Bloomberg)

• Elliott Management is preparing for a potential fight with Hess, with the aim of either removing the oil company’s C.E.O. or pushing him to consider selling all or part of the company. (WSJ)

• Platinum Equity is in advanced talks to buy Husky Injection Molding Systems for about $4 billion including debt, according to unidentified people. (Reuters)

• The maker of generic drugs Perrigo is preparing an indicative offer for the $4.7 billion consumer health unit of Merck of Germany. (Reuters)

• The snack company Snyder’s-Lance is considering a potential sale after being approached by Campbell Soup, according to unidentified people. (CNBC)

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Behind the stock move: Apparently traders thought that the C.E.O. of Twitter meeting with the C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs might mean that the social networking company was looking to sell itself.

A splash of cold water: Twitter’s chief, Jack Dorsey, has been a guest at Goldman gatherings before. A Twitter spokeswoman said that Lloyd Blankfein was at the tech company’s offices for a Q. & A. with prominent users.

• Deutsche Bank flagged about $30 million in potentially suspicious transactions as part of an internal investigation into its role as a conduit for money involving Paul Manafort, according to an unidentified person. (WSJ)

• The yield curve, the differential between two-year and 10-year Treasury note yields, has been shrinking and that has unnerved economists and investors. (WSJ)

• OPEC and the International Energy Agency, the two biggest oil organizations in the world, have divergent views on what will happen in 2018 to the glut of oil that has depressed crude prices. (Bloomberg)

• Teva Pharmaceuticals said it would cut about a quarter of its work force, or about 14,000 jobs, close manufacturing and research facilities, and suspend its dividend in an effort to simplify its structure and reduce its debt.

• Global inequality has stabilized after widening for decades, but it won’t stay that way for long. (NYT)

• The National Labor Relations Board overturned a key Obama-era doctrine that gave workers significant leverage in challenging the labor practices of companies like fast-food and hotel chains. (NYT)

• Koch Industries announced an early-stage V.C. firm called Koch Disruptive Technologies that will be led by Chase Koch, the son of Charles Koch. (Axios)

• N.P. Narvekar, the new investment chief at Harvard’s endowment, pushed to cut the value of some investments last year and would have gone further, but met resistance from other board members, according to unidentified people. (WSJ)

• Wall Street banks including Bank of America and Citigroup are facing potential losses of more than 1 billion euros, or nearly $1.2 billion, on loans made to Christo Wiese, the billionaire backer of Steinhoff International. (FT)

• Executives at Guggenheim Partners are working to quell client concerns about an ongoing examination by U.S. securities regulators. (Reuters)

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