Murdoch denies Discovery merger talks

21st Century Fox has denied as “categorically untrue” a story that appeared in the Australian Financial Review saying that senior executives from 21st Century Fox and Discovery Communications had met to discuss a tie-up that could create a $100 billion movie, entertainment and sports giant.

Rupert Murdoch of Fox and John Malone, a major shareholder in Discovery (and a director) and chairman and CEO of Discovery Holdings, have a long history in media, sometimes fighting one another and other times co-operating.

Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, on February 23, reminded readers that News Corp-backed Foxtel is already working on a 50/50 deal with Discovery to buy Australia’s Ten Network.

A few months ago billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a shareholder in News Corp/21st Century Fox, and following the ending of 21st Century’s bid for Time-Warner, said: “Combining both companies would have been a dream proposal because the amount of content the combined company would have had would have been tremendous,” he told CNN in September. “Knowing Mr Murdoch, I think the idea is still in his mind. But I think the time is not right now because the management of Time Warner are against it, and the shareholders of Fox were also not for it.”

Discovery might be that fresh idea. It could make make a perfect fit into 21st Century’s portfolio, not least because of its enormous number of factual and documentary channels around the world, but also its interests in SBS, Eurosport, and an obvious growing enthusiasm for spreading its wings.

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