By most accounts, Disney’s acquisition of a ton of Fox assets has been complete for a while now, if various Reddit threads plotting how the X-Men could be a part of the MCU are any indication. But there are still a few regulatory hurdles, including the sale of the former Fox RSNs. That’s a visible obstacle here, but there are a few more, including obtaining regulatory approval in Mexico and Brazil.
As Bloomberg reported, Bob Iger himself recently traveled to Brazil in an effort to get that approval. Typically, when one of the most powerful men in media goes somewhere in person, it’s as the closer, so it’s maybe a slight surprise that he left without a deal. And as with the RSNs in the United States, it’s another sports angle that’s holding up approval in Brazil.
The CEO’s intervention comes with Disney just a few steps from completing its transformative deal, in which it will acquire most of the entertainment assets of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox. Disney has said the acquisition will close in the first half of this year, but the company has hinted that it could be completed as early as next month.
There are still some loose ends, including approvals in Brazil and Mexico and the sale of 22 Fox regional sports networks required by the U.S. Justice Department. The company has 90 days after the close of the Fox deal to complete that.
Brazil is considering the deal from an anti-trust perspective, as you might expect.
Brazilian regulators are still split on whether the deal can be approved without the need for Disney to sell one of its two sports channels in the country, Fox Sports and ESPN, according to two people close to the discussions. In December, Brazil’s antitrust regulator, known as Cade, posted a report that said the deal could create a competition hazard. Some Cade board members still see behavioral remedies as a viable option to obtain approval.
It really is interesting how the sports broadcasting implications are such a sticking point in a deal that involves an entire film and television studio being bought out by a direct competitor, but here we are.
Disney doesn’t seem too concerned by the slow pace of approval so far, of course, and the odds of a Brazilian regulatory board derailing a $71 billion deal that has already essentially been approved in the United States seems very slim. Iger’s trip is probably just insurance, but given the importance of the deal to both Disney and to Iger himself, it’s probably well worth it.