Disney Nearing Fox Family Deal


The Walt Disney Co. is said to be close to finalizing a deal to purchase Fox
Family Worldwide Inc., the kids' programming business jointly owned by News
Corp. and Saban Entertainment Inc., according to published reports.

The agreement, which could be announced early this week, evidently calls for
Disney to pay some $3.3 billion, as well as assuming $2 billion in debt.

Representatives for Disney, News Corp. and Saban could not be reached by
phone, nor electronic mail, over the weekend.

Should the deal be consummated, Disney could use the distribution to launch
its Playhouse Disney preschool network, which is slated to bow next year. The
channel, targeting kids two through five, is emanating from the programming
block of the same name that airs on Disney Channel.

If an accord is reached, it would be significant for both Saban -- controlled
by kids' powerhouse Haim Saban, the man who brought the Mighty Morphin
Rangers phenomenon to the United States in the 1990s -- and
News Corp.

In December, Saban exercised his right to force News to buy out his stake,
but the two sides couldn't concur on Fox Family's value. The two sides
subsequently agreed to jointly sell the business. Many industry observers
doubted whether Fox Family could fetch the $4 billion to $6 billion that Saban
assessed the business at.

Meanwhile, a cash infusion could help News Corp., which is said to be moving
toward a complex agreement with General Motors Corp. to purchase its Hughes
Electronics Corp. unit, which controls direct-broadcast satellite leader DirecTV
Inc. Rupert Murdoch-led News Corp. plans to fold DirecTV into its SkyGlobal
Networks division.