News Corp., which owns Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones, said Friday that it had formed a special committee of board members to consider a possible deal. A merger isn’t certain, the company added in its announcement.
Fox Corp., which was left over from the $71.3 billion 21st Century Fox sale to Disney in 2019, owns right wing networks Fox News and Fox Business, which is a CNBC competitor.
A combination would allow Murdoch to consolidate leadership in his media empire and cut costs. The discussions come as the audience shrinks for both print media and cable television, as readers and viewers increasingly get their news and entertainment from social media, online news and streaming services.
The announcement will have no impact on News Corps current operations, CEO Robert Thomson told employees in a memo obtained by CNBC.
“I would like to stress that the special committee has not made any determination at this time, and there can be no certainty that any transaction will result from this evaluation,” he wrote.
Thomson also asked employees not to speculate about the potential deal or make any formal comments to media, shareholders or customers.
The news also comes as Fox Corp. and Fox News are facing a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion argues that Fox News and Fox Business made false claims that its voting machines rigged the results of the 2020 presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
CNBC has reached out to Fox and News Corp. for comment. “Neither the Company nor the Special Committee intends to comment on or disclose further developments regarding the Special Committee’s work unless and until it deems further disclosure is appropriate or required,” News Corp. said in its statement Friday.
Murdoch, 91, split Fox and News Corp. in 2013. He is the chairman of Fox and the executive chairman of News Corp. His son Lachlan Murdoch is CEO of Fox and co-executive chairman of News Corp.
The Murdoch family has a 42% voting stake in Fox and a 39% voting stake in News Corp., according to the Journal. Fox’s market value is about $17 billion, while News Corp.’s is about $9 billion, as of Friday’s close. Class A shares of News Corp. rose more than 3% after hours, while Fox’s Class A shares barely moved.
News Corp. also includes book publisher HarperCollins, scandal sheet The New York Post and news outlets in the U.K. and Murdoch’s native Australia. Fox’s holdings also include the Fox broadcast network, which airs “The Simpsons” and NFL games.