The Walt Disney Company, fabled guardian of Mickey Mouse and pixie dust, was stunned yesterday by a hostile takeover bid from America's largest cable television provider.
Comcast, which has grown in recent years to dominate the cable market, is offering $50bn in stock for Disney. It said it would also assume nearly $12bn of its debt. Wall Street reacted cautiously, with Comcast shares closing 8 per cent down. Disney shares soared 14 per cent.
The takeover attempt is a further blow to Disney's chief executive officer, Michael Eisner, who has been fighting against criticism of his management style. Most recently, he has been challenged by Roy Disney, the nephew of Walt, who resigned from the board last November.
Comcast made its move just two days after its chief executive, Brian Roberts, met Mr Eisner privately to try to persuade him to agree to the takeover plan. The approach was rebuffed and Comcast said the rejection left it no choice but to make the hostile bid.
Comcast, which has 23 million subscribers and is also number one in high-speed internet access in the US, would acquire all of Disney's interests, including its theme parks, movie studios, the ABC network and even its cruise line. The deal, which has no guarantee of succeeding, would give Comcast a highly valued programming network for its distribution network.
The combined company would remake the world's media industry and create a powerful new rival to Time Warner and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.