US President Trump spoke with Rupert Murdoch after the Disney-Fox merger announcement on Thursday and congratulated him on the deal expressing some support for it. This gesture is very significant, as the deal needs to pass through the regulatory review.
According to Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine, Trump has called up Murdoch ahead of the Disney deal to make sure that Fox News would not be among the assets sold, in-order to avoid regulatory issues similar to that of AT&T-Time Warner merger.
Given Trump’s relationship with Murdoch, the president’s expression of at least some favoritism for the mega-merger media transaction.
In the past, Trump has expressed more favorable views of Fox News, and routinely quotes from “Fox & Friends” in his morning tweets.
The Disney-Fox deal faces a regulatory review process that could take up to 18 months, and Disney CEO Bob Iger said on “Good Morning America” the transaction “is a different kind of merger [from AT&T-Time Warner]. We’re hoping the government takes a look at this from a consumer point of view.”
In their merger announcement, the two companies talked about saving $2 billion from cost efficiencies, but it is unclear if that means jobs will be trimmed.
Iger had a relationship with Trump as one of the business leaders who were members of the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum. But he resigned from the group in June in protest of Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accords.
There was some talk of the merger — and whether Trump’s comments on it will only call more attention to his role in the review process — at the Washington DC premiere of “The Post” on Thursday, which was hosted by its distributor, 21st Century Fox.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that “any merger that size, we should have hearings.”
“I know all the players involved. I am sure they have looked at it. I think the American public should have a say in it too,” he said of the $52 billion transaction.
The spark of this historic deal came in August over a couple of glasses of wine, as Disney Chief Bob Iger and 21st Century Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch were having a casual get-together at Murdoch’s Moraga Estate winery in Bel-Air and discussing the state of the business.
Iger left the winery with a feeling that Murdoch might be open to a deal that could be transformative to both Disney and 21st Century Fox.
A few weeks later, Iger called Murdoch for a more serious conversation about exploring the possibility of a merger.
A little more than two months after Iger’s call, top Disney and Fox executives rose before dawn on Dec. 13 to unveil the $52.4 billion acquisition pact before the stock market opened.