DealBook Briefing: Will Disney’s Bob Iger Ever Step Down?

Good Thursday morning. Bob Iger might stay at Disney a little longer. UnitedHealth shows that, in health care, upheaval is the new normal. And efforts to fix the tax overhaul are showing some signs of strain.

As Brooks Barnes put it in the NYT, the executive who replaces Mr. Iger as Disney’s C.E.O. when his contract is up in 2019 may be Mr. Iger himself.

This time, the reason is that if Disney clinches a deal to buy huge chunks of 21st Century Fox, Mr. Iger would be needed to oversee integration of the operations.

Andrew adds:

All this highlights Disney’s succession problem. News reports have said that James Murdoch, Fox’s chief executive, who could join Disney, may eventually step up. (That idea isn’t among the formal negotiating points between Disney and Fox.)

Don’t forget Comcast: The cable giant is still talking with Fox (though Disney is in the lead). Bloomberg says Comcast’s real targets are international assets like Fox’s stakes in the Star media empire in India and the British broadcaster Sky.

And here’s a lighter take on the Disney-Fox talks, courtesy of Paul Pendergass, formerly DealBook’s “Jack Flack” columnist.


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


UnitedHealth’s $4.9 billion takeover of a physician group from DaVita may not be as big as CVS’s deal for Aetna. But it highlights how fast traditional boundaries in health care are dissolving.

UnitedHealth has been disrupting the industry for a long time. It already owns a pharmacy benefit manager and an outpatient services provider. Now the DaVita division will give it a doctor network.

Reed Abelson of the NYT quoted Craig Garthwaite, a health economist at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, on integration:

Critics’ corner

• Brooke Sutherland and Max Nisen write, “Steady diversification with small deals is the kind of strategy that can win this race.” (Gadfly)

• Charley Grant writes, “With cheap credit readily available and UnitedHealth’s sparkling long-term returns as an inducement, the recipe for succeeding in health care is pretty clear.” (Heard on the Street)

Extra credit: Barclays and Goldman Sachs will each lend CVS $20 billion as part of the Aetna takeover, the kind of big deal lending that was traditionally the province of JPMorgan Chase, according to the WSJ.

A lot is still being changed. And not everything is going well.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is open to keeping more generous state and local tax deductions, a deal with Senator Susan Collins of Maine to help prop up the Affordable Care Act has been all but rejected by House Republicans, potentially jeopardizing her final vote.

Meanwhile, Republicans are looking at cuts to social welfare programs like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare to help pay for the bill — unpopular moves that would come ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

“Holy crap, what’s this?”: That’s what Greg Jenner, a former top tax official in George W. Bush’s Treasury Department, said of the tax legislation to Politico, describing how the new rules could be gamed.

How the business world is responding

Some analysts increasingly see no reason for investors to put more money into the stock market because of the tax legislation, since companies probably won’t spend as much on buybacks as people think.

Meanwhile, Citigroup says that it expects a $20 billion hit to its profits under the proposal, though it still plans to return some $60 billion to investors over the next three years.

But one of the private equity world’s biggest moguls is OK with the bill:

The Washington flyaround

· House Republican leaders believe they have the votes to avert a government shutdown. (Politico)

· Behind President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel: frustration from supporters like Sheldon Adelson. (NYT)

· Michael Flynn told a former business associate that economic sanctions would be “ripped up” in the Trump administration’s first days, according to a whistle-blower. (NYT)

· Senator Elizabeth Warren is in the same camp as Mr. Trump on megadeals, an alliance that puts more pressure on big mergers. (Breakingviews)

Spats like the one between Alphabet and Amazon — in which YouTube was pulled from Amazon’s Fire TV and Echo Show devices, and Amazon then appeared to stop selling Alphabet’s Nest devices — highlight a rise in the stakes as these companies battle for consumers’ minds and money.

It’s consumers who may lose out, the media analyst Dan Rayburn told the WaPo.

But Shira Ovide of Gadfly thinks that, in at least one case, tech companies should do more backbiting. She’s urging Twitter and Snapchat to team up against Facebook:

Who hacked Uber? A 20-year-old Florida man appears to have led the breach that resulted in the theft of millions of riders’ data — and then have been paid to keep quiet, according to Reuters.

Alexa, run my life: Katherine Bindley of the WSJ tried to see how much of her life she could outsource to Amazon products and services. Among her conclusions: “No matter how well the Echo Look functions, posing for it every morning is stressful.”

• Time named “the silence breakers” — women and men who spoke about harassment and assaults they suffered from powerful men — as its person of the year. (NYT)

• Democratic senators including Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have called upon Al Franken to resign. He could announce his plans to step down today. (The Hill)

• Six women have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Weinstein brothers and several business associates. (NYT)

• The venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck, who has been accused of misconduct, tweeted support for #MeToo. It didn’t go over well. (Quartz)

It wasn’t a famous art collector like Steve Cohen who paid $450.3 million at auction last month for “Salvator Mundi.” It was a little-known Saudi prince with no history as a major art buyer, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud.

From David Kirkpatrick of the NYT:

And it’s still rising. That has Wall Street keeping a close eye on the digital currency and associated technologies like the blockchain.

But Bitcoin is being hoarded like virtual gold, and that has downsides.

Here’s what Brian Armstrong of Coinbase told the NYT:

The N.F.L. finally agreed to give him a new $200 million deal, though nearly all that money is tied to financial targets. Something of an uneasy peace has descended upon the league’s owners: Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys had briefly threatened to sue over the negotiations.

More from Ken Belson of the NYT:

Caveat: The N.F.L. is far from in the clear. Ratings are still falling, critics are still worried about player safety and some fans are still incensed about player protests.

• Fraser Robinson, the top Uber deal maker who negotiated the company’s investment from Saudi Arabia last year, has stepped down. (FT)

— Shari Redstone, in an email to Viacom associates, referring to Philippe Dauman, her main rival for control of her father’s Viacom media empire.

• Oliver Schmidt, a top Volkswagen official in the United States, was sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in the German automaker’s decade-long scheme to cheat on diesel emissions tests. (NYT)

• The wealthiest 1 percent of American households own 40 percent of the country’s wealth, according to a study based on the Survey of Consumer Finances — the highest share since at least 1962. (WaPo)

• A coalition of groups that includes conservationists and the founder of the outdoor brand Patagonia filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to protect the status of the Bears Ears National Monument. (ABC)

• China says it is open for business, but it seems to be curtailing foreign firms’ access to its consumers, in an effort to help Chinese companies forge ahead in sectors like electric cars and robots. (NYT)

• GVC Holdings, which owns online gambling platforms, is in advanced talks to buy the British betting-shop operator Ladbrokes Coral for as much as $5.2 billion. (Bloomberg)

• Ping An, the world’s largest insurer by market capitalization, has emerged as the second biggest shareholder in HSBC, according to a filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. (FT)

• The proportion of merger and acquisition activity involving all-share deals has dropped to a record low this year, driven by access to cheap cash and doubts over equity market valuations in the United States. (FT)

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Follow Andrew Ross Sorkin @andrewrsorkin, Michael J. de la Merced @m_delamerced and Amie Tsang @amietsang on Twitter.

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