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President and Founder

Geoffrey A. Manne is president and founder of the International Center for Law and Economics (ICLE), a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center based in Portland, Oregon. He is also a distinguished fellow at Northwestern University’s Center on Law, Business, and Economics. Previously he taught at Lewis & Clark Law School. Prior to teaching, Manne practiced antitrust law at Latham & Watkins, clerked for Hon. Morris S. Arnold on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, and worked as a research assistant for Judge Richard Posner. He was also once (very briefly) employed by the FTC. Manne holds AB & JD degrees from the University of Chicago.

Antitrust

Antitrust Mergers & Merger Enforcement Telecom

ICLE Issue Brief

A Preliminary Assessment of the Relative Antitrust Risk of a Comcast vs Disney Purchase of 21st Century Fox Assets

ICLE Antitrust & Consumer Protection Program Issue Brief No. 2018-01 (May 23, 2018)

Summary

As has been rumored in the press for a few weeks, Comcast announced today that it is considering a renewed bid for a large chunk of Twenty-First Century Fox’s (Fox) assets. In December 2017, Fox’s board rejected a bid from Comcast that was some 16% higher than the one it ultimately accepted from Disney.

The board’s decision was based largely on its assessment that a merger with Comcast created unacceptable antitrust risk, where a merger with Disney did not.

In a brief analysis of the proposed deal, ICLE executive director and antitrust expert, Geoffrey Manne, posits that there is no basis for ascribing a greater antitrust risk to Comcast’s purchase of Fox’s assets than to Disney’s.

Among other things, Manne discusses why the DOJ’s AT&T/Time Warner merger challenge doesn’t increase the risk that the DOJ would challenge a Comcast/Fox deal. His analysis also touches on:

  • Why a vertical Comcast merger may be less problematic than the horizontal Disney one;
  • Why the addition of Fox’s regional sports programming may create bigger problems for Disney than for Comcast;
  • Why the purchase of Fox’s filmed entertainment assets cuts against Disney more than Comcast; and
  • Why a Comcast controlling interest in Hulu is unlikely to concern antitrust enforcers.

In sum, Manne finds that while a Comcast/Fox deal may pose some antitrust enforcement risk, it certainly doesn’t entail sufficient risk to deem the deal dead on arrival — and it seems to represent less regulatory risk than a Disney/Fox tie-up.

Continue reading the full paper