21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch’s flirtation with the top spot at The Walt Disney Co. may have to wait a bit, after a report in the Wall Street Journal said current Disney chair and CEO Bob Iger would likely extend his employment deal at the company should it acquire certain assets from Fox.
Disney is reportedly in deep discussions with Fox concerning the purchase of its movie studio, regional sports networks, cable channels FX and National Geographic and other assets valued at more than $60 billion.
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According to reports, people familiar with the matter speculated that one of the benefits of the deal would be that Murdoch could step in to replace Iger as CEO, thus solving a nagging succession problem at Disney over the past several years. Iger had originally intended to retire as chairman and CEO at Disney in 2015, but has extended his deal each year – he is scheduled to step down in 2019 – as a successor has been hard to find.
Former Disney chief operating officer Thomas Staggs was the last serious candidate considered for the role, but he resigned from the company in 2016 after it became apparent that he did not have the support of the Disney board of directors.
The deal, which could be announced as early as next week, would likely take until the end of 2018 to obtain all the necessary federal approvals, the Journal said. Integrating the assets could take up to another year, and would be even more difficult with a new CEO at the helm, adding to the need for Iger to extend his current contract. It is plausible that James Murdoch could take over as Disney CEO in 2020, once the integration is complete.
Murdoch has reportedly been under pressure at Fox after weathering sexual harassment scandals at its Fox News unit and a phone-hacking scandal at its U.K. tabloid newspapers in 2012. According to an earlier report in the Journal, Murdoch has at times “felt like a CEO in title only.”