DealBook Briefing: The Next Media Takeover War Is Brian Roberts vs. Rupert Murdoch

Good Tuesday morning. Comcast is fighting Fox over the British broadcaster Sky. Delta shows pushing back against the National Rifle Association has political costs. And will the U.S. challenge Broadcom’s bid for Qualcomm on national security grounds?

We’d waited to see if Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and C.E.O., would challenge Walt Disney for control of 21st Century Fox. Instead, he plans to disrupt Mr. Murdoch’s bid for full control of Sky, the British satellite broadcaster.

What Comcast is offering: £12.50, or about $17.50, a share for all of Sky

What Fox is offering: £10.75 a share for the 61 percent of Sky that it doesn’t own

Behind the maneuvers

Comcast had worked on its own offer for Fox, with the chance to expand internationally through Sky being a big reason for bidding. But the Murdochs and their advisers believed that it would be difficult for Comcast to win U.S. regulatory approval.

However, Fox’s bid for Sky has been held up by questions by British regulators about whether Mr. Murdoch was fit and proper to control a major broadcaster in the U.K. That presented Comcast’s opportunity.

What Mr. Roberts said in Comcast’s regulatory statement: “We already have a strong presence in London, and Comcast intends to use Sky as a platform for our growth in Europe.” (He later thanked a London cabby for convincing him to pursue the bid.)

Critics’ corner

• Paul Richards of the media research firm Numis told the FT that Comcast’s bid is a “very strong competitive offer.”

• Alex DeGroote at Cenkos Securities told Bloomberg, “The market was anticipating another approach and will be pleasantly surprised.”


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


The tweet from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle of Georgia, Delta’s home state, shows that it isn’t easy for companies to find a balance between those who want corporate America to push for more gun control and those who think conservatives are being unfairly maligned.

By eliminating discounted fares for N.R.A. members, the airline has stirred up Georgia Republican opposition to a lucrative tax break that had substantial support only days ago.

Also in that category: FedEx, which is keeping its discounts for N.R.A. members while expressing support for banning assault rifles for civilians.

As Matt Pearce of the LAT put it, “It’s getting harder and harder to find neutral territory in America’s raging gun-control debate.”

Elsewhere in guns and money: If you have a 401(k), you’re probably invested in a gun maker. An argument for Silicon Valley to advance smart-gun tech. And Warren Buffett thinks it would be “ridiculous” for Berkshire Hathaway to boycott gun makers.

The policy flyaround

• Six Republican leaders in Congress say they don’t plan to dig into President Trump’s finances as part of their investigation into Russian election interference. (CNN)

• The Supreme Court declined the Trump administration’s request to shut down DACA while lower courts explore the issue. (NYT)

• The European Commission will withdraw its complaint against Ireland for not recovering $16 billion in unpaid taxes from Apple, but only if the country recovers the amount in full. (CNBC)

The government panel known as Cfius, which reviews deals for national security reasons, has taken the rare step of looking at a potential combination before the chip makers have even agreed on a deal, Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources. Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, urged the review.

If Cfius intervenes, it would sidestep Broadcom’s move to relocate its headquarters to the U.S., which critics said was aimed in part at preventing such a review. (Broadcom’s C.E.O., Hock Tan, said the redomiciling would happen even if the deal didn’t go through.)

More from Diane Bartz of Reuters:

More in the chip battle: Qualcomm says that it’s willing to keep talking, but Broadcom called the outreach “feigned engagement.” Qualcomm reportedly wants more than $90 a share; the current offer is $79 a share.

• The investment decisions of SoftBank’s Masa Son befuddle even his own directors. Meanwhile, a senior SoftBank executive confirmed that the company was weighing a spinoff of its Japanese mobile phone unit.

• Liberty Media has offered to invest $1.16 billion in iHeartMedia, the troubled radio broadcasting giant, in exchange for a 40 percent stake in the company after it reorganizes its debts in bankruptcy court. (WSJ)

• Microchip Technology is reportedly in advanced talks to buy its fellow chip maker Microsemi, whose market value as of yesterday was $7.5 billion. (WSJ)

• The jobs site Glassdoor is interviewing banks to advise on an I.P.O. that could come in the second half of this year, unnamed sources say. (Bloomberg)

• The activist fund Legion Partners wants the retailer Genesco to sell more more businesses — or face a board fight, unnamed sources say. (Reuters)

• Why your investment banker may not be faithful, as detailed in a court fight over the sale of Aruba Networks to H.P. (FT)

That’s what Larry Hutcher, a corporate lawyer at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, said of the last-minute turmoil that sank an investor group’s bid for The Weinstein Company and led the embattled studio to plan a corporate bankruptcy filing.

Brooks Barnes of the NYT traced how the deal fell apart, including the investors’ mistake in not holding talks with the New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, earlier in the process and the belated firing of the studio’s president, David Glasser.

More in corporate misconduct: Expect New York officials to continue agitating for change at the Weinstein Company and Wynn Resorts.

Beijing’s takeover of the troubled Anbang Insurance Group is another sign that deal making by that country’s moguls is slowing to a halt. It’s not just the Chinese government’s fears of overspending by homegrown businesses, but also growing skepticism from officials in the United States and elsewhere.

More from Alexandra Stevenson of the NYT:

More on Anbang: Is its takeover China’s “too big to fail” moment? And expect Beijing to need to bail out other indebted Chinese companies.

The China flyaround

• Meet Liu He, the man President Xi Jinping plans to name as overseer of China’s financial and industrial sectors. (WSJ)

• HNA Group is setting up $3.2 billion worth of investment funds to support China’s One Belt, One Road infrastructure campaign. (Bloomberg)

• Alibaba is in talks to buy, a food delivery start-up, at a valuation of more than $9.5 billion, unidentified sources say. (FT)

• Why Daimler’s works council wasn’t worried about Geely becoming the carmaker’s biggest investor. (Bloomberg)

Why is Circle reportedly buying the digital token exchange Polloniex for about $400 million? According to Nathaniel Popper of the NYT, it’s to become the U.S.’s first regulated digital money exchange.

From his must-read Twitter thread:

The virtual currency flyaround

• 50 Cent never actually owned Bitcoin. (The Blast)

• Venture capitalists should worry about missing initial coin offerings, according to Tim Draper. (The Information)

• BlackRock says that investors jumping into digital money should be prepared to lose everything. (CNBC)

• A man who claimed to have invented Bitcoin is accused of stealing more than $5 billion worth of assets from the estate of a late colleague. (Bloomberg)

• Virtual currencies are making divorces more difficult. (Bloomberg)

• of China has founded an accelerator for artificial intelligence and blockchain start-ups. (TechCrunch)

• G.E. has named three new directors — H. Lawrence Culp, the former C.E.O. of Danaher; Thomas Horton, the former C.E.O. of American Airlines; and Leslie Seidman, the former chairman of the Financial Accounting Standards Board — as the conglomerate continues toiling on its self-help plan. (WSJ)

• Rothschild’s chairman, David de Rothschild, is turning over leadership of the investment bank to his 37-year-old son, Alexandre. (FT)

• Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, UBS and Barclays all added more employees last year amid a turnaround in European investment banking. (FT)

• Apple is preparing to start a network of medical clinics for its employees and their families that could help it test out its broader ambitions in healthcare. (FT)

• It is also preparing to release three new smartphones this year: the largest iPhone ever, an upgraded version of the iPhone X and a less expensive model. (Bloomberg)

• California’s Department of Motor Vehicles said it was iliminating a requirement for autonomous vehicles to have a person in the driver’s seat. (NYT)

• Netflix spends more on non-sports content than any streaming provider and many traditional TV companies. (Recode)

• Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans lack power more than five months after a hurricane hit the island, but the federal government has begun scaling back the number of electrical restoration contractors. (NYT)

• Companies want to know how climate change might disrupt their operations, but with governments slow to make information available, start-ups have tried to fill the gap. (NYT)

• JPMorgan said its female employees earn 99 percent of what male employees make in Britain, but the number is based on the bank’s methodology for determining what pay is appropriate. (BloombergView)

• Goldman Sachs is considering a sale-leaseback of its new European headquarters in London. The building could sell for more than $1.4 billion, according to unidentified sources. (Bloomberg)

• Deutsche Bank is expanding in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as the lender expects sovereign bond sales and initial public offerings to drive deals this year. (Bloomberg)

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