Disney and Fox Deal Likely to Close by Summer 2019

The planned acquisition of 20th Century Fox by the Walt Disney Company is expected to close by summer of next year, according to Fox President Peter Rice.

The merger, which will bring together two of Hollywood's most historic brands and reunite the vast majority of the Star Wars and Marvel Comics movie rights, was announced late last year, and at the time, Disney said they expected the regulatory approval process to take between 12 and 18 months.

The larger Fox company -- 21st Century Fox, which owns the 20th Century Fox studio as well as various Fox-branded entertainment, news, and publishing ventures -- will be slimmed down and renamed for a post-Disney existence. Rice told his audience that management changes to the new company, which will likely be called simply Fox, will be announced over the next year, in the interest of calming investors and reassuring the market that Fox will continue to function after the Disney deal goes through and the lion's share of the company assets are taken over.

There have been reports that Comcast is interested in swooping in to top Disney's order, but those rumors appear to be smoke. Since the Disney negotiations became public, Comcast has been the only serious competitor to throw their hat into the ring, but even then no one appeared to take the interest particularly seriously as it seemed to come only after the Disney/Fox deal was a fait accompli.

A handful of Democrats have suggested that Congress might hold anti-trust hearings, but Congressional approval would not be needed for the merger to succeed. It is likely to be approved by the Justice Department.

The Trump administration has seemed keen to block a merger between AT&T and Time Warner, but the situations are somewhat different: AT&T owns a huge amount of physical infrastructure for delivering data, and if they were to buy Time Warner the argument goes that they could begin to corner that market and limit consumer choice. Critics have argued that the real motivation is President Trump's feud with CNN, the cable news provider owned by Time Warner.

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If completed, the deal is worth between $70 and $85 billion.

[h/t Deadline]