Fox acquires majority stake in National Geographic for $725 million

MUMBAI: Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox has acquired a majority stake in The National Geographic Society for approximately $725 million. 

The agreement between the two companies expands their 18-year partnership through which they have owned and operated the properties in National Geographic Channels, a joint venture of domestic and international cable television channels which together reach more than 500 million households globally.  

The National Geographic Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on its mission of science, exploration and education. 


With the transaction valued at $725 million, the Society’s endowment will significantly increase to nearly $1 billion. The new entity will be owned 73 per cent by 21st Century Fox and 27 per cent by The National Geographic Society with a shared governance structure and equal representation on the board of directors. The Board Chair will alternate annually, with National Geographic Society president and CEO Gary Knell, serving as the Board’s first chairman.

The new expanded joint venture will operate as National Geographic Partners and will combine the National Geographic television channels with National Geographic’s other media and consumer-oriented assets, including: National Geographic magazines; National Geographic Studios; related digital and social media platforms; books; maps; children’s media; and ancillary activities, including travel, location-based entertainment, archival sales, catalog, licensing and ecommerce businesses.


Combining these assets into one organization will create greater opportunities to pursue National Geographic’s mission of increasing knowledge through science, exploration and research.


Declan Moore, a 20-year veteran of the Society currently serving as chief media officer, has been appointed CEO of National Geographic Partners.


“The expansion of our nearly two decade partnership with 21st Century Fox is another milestone for The National Geographic Society, which for much of its 127 years has sponsored groundbreaking scientists and explorers and shared the knowledge and wonder with the world, using the best and most creative media platforms of each era,” 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. As media organizations work to meet the increasing demand for high quality storytelling across multiple platforms, it’s clear that the opportunity to grow by more closely aligning our branded content and licensing assets is the right path. We now will have the scale and reach to continue to fulfill our mission long into the future. The Society’s work will be the engine that feeds our content creation efforts, enabling us to share that work with even larger audiences and achieve more impact. It’s a virtuous cycle," he added.


21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch added, “We are privileged to have the opportunity to expand our partnership to continue to bring to audiences around the world, ‘The world and all that is in it,’ as National Geographic Society’s second president Alexander Graham Bell stated more than a century ago. We believe in the Society's mission of bringing the world to audiences through science, education and exploration.”    


“We’re working hard to focus our portfolio on brands that have unquestionable consumer appeal. 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. We're very excited and honored to work with the Society’s extraordinary explorers, scientists and visual storytellers to propel their incredible work to audiences around the globe,” he added.


The additional resources will enable The National Geographic Society to basically double its investment in an array of science, research and education programs. Plans include the creation of the National Geographic Grosvenor Center for Education, dedicated to improving the geographic skills of high school students, and the establishment of Centers of Excellence in Cartography, Journalism and Photography, which will develop and fund innovations in exploration, mapping and story-telling. The National Geographic Museum, thought leader forums, and related programs will remain under the Society's purview, all with the support of a focused philanthropic development team.


"The National Geographic Society Board of Trustees truly believes that this expanded partnership with 21st Century Fox well positions our institution for today and for tomorrow – in a way that ensures a sustainable future, while protecting and building upon the legacy of our founders. Our partners at 21st Century Fox have been extraordinarily collaborative for nearly two decades, and we are certain that the future is brighter as a result of today's announcement," said NGS Board chairman of the Society CEO from 1998 to 2014 John Fahey, Jr.

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