The Walt Disney Co., pressed with selling off 22 regional sports networks it will acquire as part of its $71.3 billion purchase of certain 21st Century Fox assets by early next year, has sent out the official bid books for the channels to prospective buyers, according to reports.
According to Sports Business Daily, the books, which include detailed information on the channels, were sent to digital and traditional programming distributors and investment banks last week who agreed to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
The auction is being handled by Allen & Co. and JP Morgan Chase. According to the paper, Comcast didn’t receive a book because they didn’t like the terms attached to the NDA. While Comcast could change its mind later in the process, there is no shortage of suitors for the properties.
Comcast declined comment.
Disney agreed to divest of the RSNs as part of the regulatory approval conditions of the larger Fox deal. According to those conditions, Disney must sell the networks within 90 days after it closes the Fox transaction. Disney has said the Fox deal could close as early as Jan. 1.
The list of possible buyers runs across the media spectrum, including tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google, to broadcasters like Sinclair Broadcast Group and investment firms.
Sinclair, one of the largest TV station owners in the country with more than 190 owned and operated TV stations, has been said to be lining up private equity companies to help it fund a Fox RSN purchase. Sinclair purchased the Tennis Channel in 2016 for $350 million and has said publicly that the Fox RSNs would be a “good fit.”
Fox, which will emerge from the Disney sale a more streamlined entity focused on live sports and news, has also been speculated to be a possible bidder.
The networks own the rights to 44 professional baseball, basketball and hockey teams and are in markets like Atlanta, Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, Phoenix and Indianapolis.
Fox also owns an 80% interest in the New York Yankees YES Network, but the team is widely expected to try to buy out Fox’s interest. According to its deal, the Yankees, which own 20% of YES, have the right of first refusal to purchase the Fox stake in the event of a sale. The Yankees have been reportedly looking to line up investment banks to help it buy out the channel, which is valued as high as $4 billion.
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