21st Century Fox continued to express optimism it will complete its bid for British satellite television provider Sky, a deal it hopes will close next year. Co-executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch told shareholders during today’s annual shareholders meeting on the Fox lot that the European Commission has already cleared the transaction following an antitrust review, and the independent UK regulator Ofcom similarly found Fox to be a “fit and proper” owner.
The final hurdle to Fox acquiring the remaining stake in Sky is a review by the UK Competition and Markets Authority, which Murdoch said should be completed by the middle of next year.
“We are confident the CMA, which is currently reviewing the transaction, will arrive at a similar conclusion,” Murdoch said.
Shareholder Nathan Cummings Foundation sought to eliminate the dual-class stock structure that gives the Murdochs control, saying Rupert Murdoch’s 40% stake in the media conglomerate creates a lack of accountability and the sort of poor governance that sets the stage for trouble.
“Allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment … have imperiled the efforts to acquire Sky,” said Roxana Tynan, speaking on behalf of the shareholder proposal. “Britain’s culture secretary noted the handling of the sexual harassment scandal raised questions about corporate governance.”
Tynan appeared to be referencing the sexual harassment scandals that roiled Fox News, and led to the ouster of chairman Roger Ailes and popular host Bill O’Reilly.
Fox’s shareholders rejected the proposal.
Shareholder John Lindsay attempted, indirectly, to broach reports of a possible sale of some of Fox’s entertainment assets, commenting, “Maybe that’s a good idea. How do we keep up with Amazon, Facebook, Google and even Netflix.”
Lachlan Murdoch sidestepped the question about reported talks with Disney. Instead, he focused on the rapidly changing media landscape. He said Fox’s investment in its core brands positions it well for a time when the world is more fragmented than ever before — noting that the emerging streaming services all carry Fox’s popular networks.
“We do better taking our services across streaming platforms than we than we do across traditional platforms,” Lachlan Murdoch said. “We see this as an incredible opportunity for the company.”