Disney's Bob Iger to Talk to James Murdoch About Possible Executive Role

Bob Iger and James Murdoch -Split-Getty-H 2017
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"I will continue to discuss whether there is a role for him here or not," the Disney CEO told analysts during a morning call.

Disney chairman and CEO Robert Iger on Thursday touted the $52.4 billion deal for 21st Century Fox assets in a morning analysts call shortly after the pact was announced, and he hinted at a future role in the combined entity for 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch.

“James and I have had a lot of conversations about the future of these companies," Iger told analysts during a morning call. He said Murdoch had helped Disney through the recent acquisitions process and will have a hand in integrating the companies over the next few months.

"And during that period of time, he and I will continue to discuss whether there is a role for him here or not. But I look forward to talking to him about it," Iger said. Wall Street has recently speculated that Murdoch will make the jump to Disney post-merger, and that the 21st Century Fox boss could be a possible successor to Iger when he eventually steps down.

Disney has yet to reveal a succession plan to replace Iger, who has now extended his contract as chairman and CEO of the entertainment giant to 2021 to oversee the merging of assets. The longtime Disney boss had been set to exit the studio in 2019.

During the call, Iger also talked about acquiring big parts of 21st Century Fox to create a "multi-faceted global entertainment" company. He argued Disney had acquired a "stellar collection of entertainment business and franchises" from Fox.

The exec added the Fox deal allows Disney to "fill in blanks for us," as the studio aims to remain in the pay TV business while it develops direct-to-consumer offerings. 

Iger also told Wall Street watchers that acquiring Fox's film and TV studio, the National Geographic and FX cable channels business, regional sports networks, international networks and Fox's 30 percent stake in Hulu and its 39 percent stake in European pay TV giant Sky will allow Disney to accelerate its push to offering content directly to consumers.

He added the Fox deal, and the acquisition of digital assets like the added Hulu stake, would not undercut Disney's traditional linear channels. "Should the multi-channel ecosystem get to where it's not as viable as we need it to be, we can flip a switch and offer content direct to consumer," Iger explained.

The exec added the transaction reflects a "changing media landscape," with "choosy" consumers looking for more content and choice in media to consume, especially as the studio drives towards offering more product direct-to-consumer content.

Disney expects the Fox deal to close within 18 months.