Fox, National Geographic Society Expand Partnership, Add Mag, Digital Assets in $725 Million Deal

Courtesy of 21st Century Fox
James Murdoch

Fox will own a 73 percent stake in the new entity after the deal that streamlines the past relationships and boosts the Society's endowment.

The National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox on Wednesday announced that they have reached an agreement to expand their  18-year partnership through which they have owned and operated the National Geographic Channels, their joint venture of U.S. and international cable channels.

The National Geographic Society is a non-profit organization. Consideration for the transaction is valued at $725 million. As a result, the Society’s endowment will increase to nearly $1 billion, the partners said.

The new entity will be 73 percent owner by 21st Century Fox and 27 percent by The National Geographic Society. Previously, Fox controlled 67 percent of the U.S. channels in the venture and owned a 73 percent stake in the international channels.

Under the deal, National Geographic magazine and digital assets, which had previously remained not-for-profit operations, will become part of the venture.

The new entity, National Geographic Partners, will have a shared governance structure and equal representation on the board of directors. The board chair role will alternate annually, with Gary Knell, National Geographic Society president and CEO, serving as the first chairman. Declan Moore, a National Geographic veteran, will serve as CEO of the entity.

Said Fox CEO James Murdoch: “We’re working hard to focus our portfolio on brands that have unquestionable consumer appeal. This expanded partnership, bringing together all of the media and consumer activities under the National Geographic umbrella, one of the most treasured names in the world, creates vast opportunities and enables this business to be even more successful in a digital environment."

The new deal will combine the National Geographic TV channels with National Geographic’s other media and consumer-oriented assets, including National Geographic magazines, National Geographic Studios, related digital and social media platforms, books, maps, children’s media and ancillary activities, including travel, location-based entertainment, archival sales, catalog, licensing and e-commerce businesses.

"The expansion of our nearly two decade partnership with 21st Century Fox is another milestone for The National Geographic Society, which for much of its 127 years has sponsored groundbreaking scientists and explorers and shared the knowledge and wonder with the world, using the best and most creative media platforms of each era," said Knell. "The value generated by this transaction, including the consistent and attractive revenue stream that National Geographic Partners will deliver, ensures that we will have greater resources for this work, which includes our grant making programs that support scientists and explorers around the world."

The partners said that the deal is expected to close later in the year. "The additional resources will enable The National Geographic Society to basically double its investment in an array of science, research and education programs," they said.