DealBook Briefing: Murdochs Could Part Ways in a Disney Deal

Good Wednesday morning. Disney is closing in on a deal to buy big parts of 21st Century Fox — and may acquire Rupert Murdoch’s son James as a senior executive as well. And the NYT published a deep investigation into the web of enablers who protected Harvey Weinstein.

If The Walt Disney Company reaches an agreement to buy big parts of 21st Century Fox, it could represent more than a breakup of the kingdom that Rupert Murdoch built over decades. It could also lead separate his family as a team of operators working in the family business.

What we know: Disney is in advanced discussions to buy the 20th Century Fox movie and television studios, cable channels like FX and Nat Geo, a stake in the British broadcaster Sky, the Star India cable and media empire, and a stake in Hulu.

What would happen to Mr. Murdoch’s sons

This is where it gets interesting. If there’s a deal, James Murdoch, who’s currently Fox’s C.E.O., could become a senior executive at Disney, with a portfolio that would likely include oversight of Sky and Star. Several news reports have said that James Murdoch could eventually succeed Bob Iger as Disney’s C.E.O., though they cautioned that there’s no formal agreement.

His brother, Lachlan, would stay to oversee what remains of Fox, which would include Fox News Channel, the FS1 sports channel and the company’s broadcast network.

The WSJ has more on the dynamic between the brothers and their father, who remains deeply involved in the management of Fox:

But the FT, citing an unidentified person close to the family, said that a split of the Murdoch men would be “a very amiable separation.”

What’s next: A deal could be announced as soon as next week. But Comcast is still in talks with Fox as well — even though that deal could be more problematic from a regulatory perspective, given that AT&T’s similar transaction with Time Warner has been sued by the Justice Department.

Critics’ corner

• “Even if it wins the Fox assets, buying a C.E.O. as part of the package might be too cute even for Disney.” (Lex)

• Peter Csathy, a media consultant, says that if Disney locks up a deal with Fox, it would have plenty of exclusive content for its forthcoming video streaming services. (Variety)


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


The NYT’s 7,500-word investigation into the people who abetted and protected Harvey Weinstein over the decades unearthed a complex web of powerful business executives, agents and gossip reporters who worked at the behest of the disgraced movie mogul.

Among those discussed in the article:

• Talent agents at firms like CAA and William Morris who heard many accusations against the movie producer, but apparently did little to address the allegations. One, Bryan Lourd of CAA, tried to arrange a meeting with the journalist Ronan Farrow, who was investigating Mr. Weinstein for The New Yorker.

• American Media, which owns the National Enquirer, and others in the tabloid press. The Enquirer and a constellation of “fixers” sought to buy the rights to the stories of accusers and then sit on the information; to collect information on accusers; or to trade juicy stories with gossip writers in exchange for not writing about Mr. Weinstein’s affairs.

• Lawyers like Steve Hutensky, working in-house for Miramax, and David Boies, the superstar litigator, who both helped structure numerous settlements with women who said they had been assaulted by Mr. Weinstein.

• Private investigative firms like Kroll and Beau Dietl & Associates who surveilled critics and potential whistle-blowers.

Making cameo appearances

• Jeff Bezos, who had spoken with Mr. Weinstein in late September — before stories in the NYT and The New Yorker on the mogul were published — for advice on an upcoming critical news article about Amazon’s studio arm.

• The financier Paul Tudor Jones, who emailed Mr. Weinstein the day before he was ousted from the studio with advice on how to rehabilitate his image. “Focus on the future as America loves a great comeback story,” Mr. Jones wrote to the movie producer.

The latest in other misconduct news

• The venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar has taken a leave of absence from his investment firm and the corporate boards on which he sits, including Virgin Hyperloop One, amid accusations of sexual misconduct and assault made against him. (NYT)

• Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook praised the newfound openness of women to speak about misconduct, but added, “We need to make sure the people accused believe there’s due process.” (NYT)

There are two ways to answer that question.

In terms of overall industry: It’s probably commercial real estate, the business from which President Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner came. The NYT points out that the industry avoided limits on matters like deductions for interest payments, while also getting a more generous depreciation timetable that allows owners to shelter more income.

In terms of individual company: The FT says that it’s Apple, which could see its taxes cut by as much as $47 billion. (As the FT helpfully notes, that is more than the annual profit of any other American company.)

About the corporate alternative minimum tax …

Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, is one lawmaker who thinks that the provision, although hated by many businesses, may be here to stay.

From Alan Rappeport and Tom Kaplan of the NYT:

The tax flyaround

• Some Republicans are still trying to get larger limits on deductions for state and local taxes. (Politico, WSJ)

• Of Republicans’ plans to cut those so-called SALT deductions, which would disproportionately hurt residents in high-tax, primarily Democratic-leaning states, the Harvard economist Lawrence Katz said, “Nobody can be a blue state anymore.” (NYT)

• The Trump administration wants lawmakers to move even faster on the tax legislation. (Politico)

• The European Union has put 17 countries on a tax haven black list. (WSJ)

For the past few days, Andrew has been in the city, where he caught up with Jack Ma at the opening of the largest Starbucks in the world.

Mr. Ma took some veiled shots at Amazon: “Amazon comes to China. They’ve been here for almost 15, 20 years. But you do not see them here anywhere.” The reason, Mr. Ma said, was that they didn’t do it “properly.”

The issue of North Korea, however, was too complicated for him. “Leave the job for President Xi and Donald Trump, because I’m focusing on my business,” Mr. Ma said.

Extra credit: Starbucks, which has doubled down in China, is opening a new store there every 15 hours.

The World Internet Conference in Wuzhen wasn’t just a gathering to show off the latest in Chinese gizmos, like a version of the Consumer Electronics Show. It also offered a glimpse of how new advances in artificial intelligence and facial recognition can be used to track citizens, and how they have become widely accepted.

From Paul Mozur of the NYT:

More in Chinese tech

• The country is leading the charge with electric cars, offering global automakers enticing financial carrots and threatening them with weighty regulatory sticks. (NYT)

• The smartphone maker Xiaomi is still being coy about when it will go public and when it might start selling phones in the United States. (Axios)

• Google blocked YouTube from Amazon’s Fire TV and Echo Show devices with a screen saying that there had been a “lack of reciprocity” on Amazon’s part. (Mercury News)

• YouTube is hiring more human reviewers to remove videos that violate its guidelines, and who have been teaching its computers how to do the same. (NYT)

• Verizon’s Oath, which now owns Yahoo, is in a legal battle with Mozilla over a search deal struck by the former Yahoo C.E.O. Marissa Mayer. (Recode)

• Britain’s health secretary said of Facebook’s new platform for children, “Stay away from my kids please Facebook and act responsibly!” (Politico)

From a report by the NYT on how Mick Mulvaney’s tenure at the regulator has been received by employees:

• Nestlé agreed to buy Atrium Innovations, a Canadian maker of vitamins, for $2.3 billion, including the assumption of debt, to expand its range of consumer health products. (WSJ)

• UnitedHealth has struck a $4.9 billion deal to buy a unit of the DaVita kidney dialysis firm that runs clinics and outpatient surgical centers. (CNBC)

• The Federal Trade Commission is challenging the a proposed deal for Tronox, a chemical maker based in Stamford, Conn., to buy Cristal, a Saudi-owned company, saying that the merger would result in significantly less competition in the sector. (NY Post)

• The Federal Reserve is poised to raise its benchmark interest rate next week, but inflation remains problematic, rising more slowly than is regarded as a healthy rate. Charles Evans and Robert Kaplan discussed the issue. (NYT)

• ChemChina’s overseas targets differ from those of its Chinese peers: It uses them to increase market share back home. (FT)

• Stephen Schwarzman has some advice for new Blackstone recruits: working life is no “Mad Men.” (Bloomberg)

• Paul Singer has taken a 5.3 percent stake in the German utility company Uniper, which is subject to an 8 billion euro, or $9.5 billion, takeover offer from Fortum of Finland. (FT)

• Two of the bids to become home to Amazon’s second headquarters contained ideas that blurred the lines between public and private, and would set a new precedent. (Economist)

• Bridgepoint, the private equity firm that owns Pret A Manger, raised 5.5 billion euros, or $6.5 billion, six months ahead of target for its latest fund and turned down about €5 billion of additional capital, according to two people with knowledge of the fund-raising. (FT)

• An association of commercial producers and theater owners has filed a federal lawsuit accusing casting directors, who have been trying to organize a labor union, of violating antitrust laws. (NYT)

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