Merger with Twitter could mark Disney CEO’s legacy

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Merger with Twitter could mark Disney CEO’s legacy

Bob Iger may have one more big deal left in him.

The 65-year-old chairman and chief executive officer of Walt Disney is scheduled to retire in June 2018. He’s already achieved a number of milestones, including Disney’s revival of the “Star Wars” film series and the opening in June of the company’s $5.5 billion Shanghai resort.

But one issue bedevils him and most other media executives: how to transition to a world where mobile devices, not TV screens, dominate news and entertainment.

The question underscores Disney’s interest in Twitter. The Burbank, California-based company has hired an investment bank to advise on a possible Twitter merger, Bloomberg News reported Monday.

A deal would unite the world’s largest entertainment company with the technology pioneer that created the 140-character tweet. It could let Iger leave knowing he’s given Disney a big presence in digital media and advertising.

“That would be his final stamp on Disney,” said Tim Galpin, a professor of management at Colorado State University and co-author of “The Complete Guide to Mergers and Acquisitions.” “If he could get that behind him, he could walk off with a final major success story.”

Twitter, whose co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey sits on the Disney board, has already been dipping his toes in live sports, airing the National Football League’s night games. That’s a business that Disney, the parent of the leading sports TV network ESPN, knows well and that clearly intrigues Iger.

Disney could use Twitter’s platform of 313 million users to deliver real-time news and sports from divisions such as ESPN and ABC News, notes Brian Wieser, an analyst with Pivotal Research Group who follows both companies. The risk is Twitter could alienate other networks like CNN and Fox News if it becomes part of Disney, he said.

An acquisition of Twitter by Disney is possible from a financial standpoint, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Stephen Flynn.

“They have a very strong balance sheet,” Flynn said. “They’re behemoths in the communications sector, and their debt is not the size of the other large players.”

If completed, a deal for Twitter would rival Disney’s 1996 acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion, and would be the largest in Iger’s 11 years as CEO. Bloomberg
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