Rupert Murdoch clearly would rather sell Twenty-First Century Fox's movie and TV assets to Disney, but he won't be able to dismiss any sweetened Comcast bid out of hand, New Yorker staff writer Ken Auletta told CNBC on Tuesday.
"You can't have large shareholders and say to them, 'Screw you. I'm doing the deal no matter what.' [Murdoch] is not an autocrat in this sense. He's not in total control," said Auletta, who has decades of experience following the media industry. He's also a best-selling author who recently explored how legacy companies are dealing with inroads from well-healed tech titans.
On June 20, Disney sweetened its all-stock offer for those Fox assets to $71.3 billion. That tops Comcast's all-cash bid of $65 billion, unveiled a week earlier. Disney had agreed in December to buy a majority of Fox for $52.4 billion in stock.
"Knowing [Comcast CEO] Brian Roberts and knowing the rivalry between he and Disney, he's going to come in with a bid to try and top the last Disney bid," Auletta speculated, but refused to hazard a guess on how high.
If Comcast were to make a new offer, it would test the resolve of Disney, which has a reputation for being "fairly disciplined economically over the years," he said.