After months of wrangling, News Corp. and Saban Entertainment Inc. are
shopping Fox Family Worldwide Inc. to a host of potential suitors at an asking
price of between $4 billion and $6 billion, according to sources familiar with
News Corp. has contacted several potential buyers, sources said, including
Viacom Inc., USA Networks Inc., AOL Time Warner Inc., The Walt Disney Co. and
General Electric Co.'s NBC.
A spokesman at Viacom declined comment. Spokeswomen at AOL, Disney and USA
also declined comment.
News Corp. and Haim Saban, chairman of Saban Entertainment, have been
haggling since December, when Saban exercised put rights for his 49.5 percent
interest in the programmer, effectively forcing News Corp. to buy him out for a
reported $2 billion.
According to sources, Saban had valued Fox Family at about $6 billion,
including $2 billion in debt.
News Corp. had said in the past that its options included finding a buyer for
Saban's interest or selling the network outright. While the company never said
it was leaning either way, News Corp. officials repeatedly stressed that any
agreement would not affect its credit ratings.
News Corp. spokesman Andrew Butcher declined to comment on any negotiations
involving Fox Family specifically. But he did say that News Corp. has continued
to evaluate its options concerning the network.
'We've always said that we would consider every option,' Butcher said. 'We'll
take the option that maximizes our return on the Fox Family assets.'
Fox Family Worldwide includes 81 million-subscriber Fox Family Channel; Fox
Kids Network, which distributes children's programming in the United States; and
Fox Kids International, which has cable and satellite channels in almost 50
Although the negotiations have dragged on for about six months, some people
familiar with the matter said they have served as an unwelcome distraction
during News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch's quest for Hughes Electronics Corp.,
parent of DirecTV Inc.
'They're putting that [Fox Family evaluation] process on hold and are
exploring a sale,' one person familiar with both companies said. 'Rupert has
been apathetic about the kids' business, and I think they've got other more
pressing needs for the cash.'
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