Even after 21st Century Fox withdrew its $80-billion bid for Time Warner, Wall Street wondered whether Rupert Murdoch was just playing possum, only to spring back to make another run at his rival.
Murdoch, and his chief deputy, on Wednesday tried to bury such concerns.
"We walked away -- this is our resolute decision," Murdoch, Fox's chief executive, said during a conference call to discuss the media giant's earnings.
Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey was more forceful: "Let me be clear: We are done."
Fox's failed Time Warner takeover bid puts Fox back in familiar territory, trying to reassure investors it was not on the prowl to make any other pricey acquisitions that would hurt the share price.
"This isn't a case where we move on to another target," Carey said.
Investors have long been wary of Murdoch's penchant for pursuing trophy properties to add to his empire. They haven't forgotten how Murdoch overpaid to buy Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co. in 2007. The acquisition resulted in a nearly $3-billion write-down that left shareholders unhappy.
For years, there was an overhang on the company's stock because everyone wondered what Murdoch would buy next.
But the mogul had exercised restraint since the British phone-hacking scandal in 2011 cast a shadow over his company. His team had been focused on streamlining and building the company's core businesses. Last year, newspapers were spun off into a separate company.
Shares of 21st Century Fox have more than doubled since mid-2011.
But last month's confirmation that Fox was making a run at Time Warner sent shares plunging. Fox then quickly moved to raise cash by selling its stake in two European pay-TV systems, a deal that is expected to generate more than $7 billion for its war chest.
So, on Wednesday, analysts peppered Fox executives about why the company wanted to buy Time Warner in the first place. Did Fox feel that it needed to be bigger to counterbalance pay-TV distributors? There are already two mega-deals in the works: Comcast Corp. is trying to buy Time Warner Cable and AT&T is closing in on DirecTV.
No, Carey said. "We don't need more scale."
Instead, Murdoch and Carey said the deal represented a "unique opportunity" because of Time Warner's premium assets. The two companies were also something of a "mirror" image of each other, Carey said.
Time Warner boasts HBO, CNN, TNT, Cartoon Network and Warner Bros., Hollywood's largest television and movie studio. Fox owns the industry's other leading film and television studio: 20th Century Fox. The company also owns a fleet of cable channels, including Fox News, Fox Sports, regional sports networks, FX, FXX, Fox Broadcasting and interests in British Sky Broadcasting pay-TV service and National Geographic Channels. (continued...)
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