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Disney CEO Flies to Brazil to Seal Fox Deal, Leaves Empty-Handed

Mario Sergio Lima and Christopher Palmeri
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Disney CEO Flies to Brazil to Seal Fox Deal, Leaves Empty-Handed

(Bloomberg) -- Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger journeyed to Brazil to push for a key piece of regulatory approval on the entertainment giant’s proposed $71 billion deal with 21st Century Fox Inc., but the talks ended without an agreement.

The CEO’s intervention comes with Disney just a few steps from completing its transformative deal, in which it will acquire most of the entertainment assets of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox. Disney has said the acquisition will close in the first half of this year, but the company has hinted that it could be completed as early as next month.

There are still some loose ends, including approvals in Brazil and Mexico and the sale of 22 Fox regional sports networks required by the U.S. Justice Department. The company has 90 days after the close of the Fox deal to complete that.

Iger and his lawyers declined to answer questions after the meeting.

The 68-year-old has a lot at stake personally. He has spent almost two years negotiating the deal and pushing for its approval. And he’s entitled to $100 million of restricted stock if he succeeds.

Brazilian regulators are still split on whether the deal can be approved without the need for Disney to sell one of its two sports channels in the country, Fox Sports and ESPN, according to two people close to the discussions. In December, Brazil’s antitrust regulator, known as Cade, posted a report that said the deal could create a competition hazard. Some Cade board members still see behavioral remedies as a viable option to obtain approval.

Cade still hasn’t decided on a date for a ruling on the deal, said the people, who requested anonymity because the discussions aren’t public. The legal deadline for a decision is on March 17 and, if the case isn’t discussed at Cade’s Feb. 27 meeting, an extension would need to be requested, the people said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mario Sergio Lima in Brasilia Newsroom at mlima11@bloomberg.net;Christopher Palmeri in Los Angeles at cpalmeri1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Raymond Colitt at rcolitt@bloomberg.net, John J. Edwards III, Nick Turner

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