Fox takes control of Nat Geo joint venture

National Geographic21st Century Fox has taken majority control of its National Geographic Channels joint venture.

The Murdoch-controlled media group has paid joint venture partner The National Geographic Society US$725 million to take its percentage of the business up to 73%. Previously a 50-50 JV, NGS will now own the remaining 27%.

The resulting venture will be named National Geographic Partners and will bring NGC – which includes the US and international channels unit and National Geographic Studios – closer to NGS’s other digital, media and publishing, travel and licensing assets, according to the partners.

“Combining these assets into one organisation will create greater opportunities to pursue National Geographic’s mission of increasing knowledge through science, exploration and research,” the said in a statement.

NGS’s veteran chief media officer, Declan Moore, has been appointed CEO of NGP, which will have a shared governance structure and equal representation on the board of directors from both firms. The board chair will alternate annually, with NGS president and CEO Gary Knell serving as the first chairman.

Fox and NGS have been working together for almost two decades. The firms said the new agreement would “significantly increase” NGS’ endowment to nearly US$1 billion.

The deal is by far the largest agreement Fox has struck since James Murdoch succeeded his father Rupert as company CEO.

“We’re working hard to focus our portfolio on brands that have unquestionable consumer appeal,” said James Murdoch. “This expanded partnership, bringing together all of the media and consumer activities under the National Geographic umbrella, one of the most treasured names in the world, creates vast opportunities and enables this business to be even more successful in a digital environment.

“In addition, we look forward to benefitting from Declan’s leadership and his keen ability to make the spirit of National Geographic come to life every day through rich storytelling across media for millions around the world.”

NGS’s Knell said “the value generated by this transaction, including the consistent and attractive revenue stream that National Geographic Partners will deliver, ensures that we will have greater resources for this work, which includes our grant making programs that support scientists and explorers around the world”.

The deal is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to complete later this year.

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