Walt Disney's board of directors have rejected Comcast's unsolicited acquisition bid, setting the scene for what could be one of the most hostile takeover fights in US corporate history.
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Disney's board said it has full confidence in the business and creative leadership of chairman and chief executive officer Michael Eisner and in Disney's structure and strategy as a path to maximum shareholder value.
However, the board also suggested that it deemed Comcast's proposal a lowball bid, and that it would consider a sweetened offer.
Comcast offered a deal it valued at $66bn, including a stock swap and the assumption of $11.9bn of Disney's debt. However, Comcast's share price has dropped since the company announced its offer last week, while Disney shares have climbed in value.
"We are committed to creating shareholder value now and in the future and will carefully consider any legitimate proposal that would accomplish that objective," Disney's board said.
"The interests of Disney shareholders, which represent the fundamental priority of the board, would not be served by accepting any acquisition proposal that does not reflect fully Disney's intrinsic value and earnings prospects."
Comcast president and chief executive officer Brian Roberts said last week that he hoped an amicable deal with Disney's board could be struck, but left open the question of what steps Comcast would take next in the event of a rejection.
The company's options now include dropping its pursuit of Disney, raising its bid, or initiating a tender offer directly to Disney's shareholders.
Stacy Cowley writes for IDG News Service