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Fox says arbitrator affirms its option to acquire stake in FanDuel

Published 11/04/2022, 05:59 PM
Updated 11/04/2022, 08:41 PM
© Reuters.

(Reuters) -An arbitrator on Friday reaffirmed Fox Corp's right to acquire a nearly one-fifth stake in FanDuel, settling a longstanding dispute with the betting app's owner, Flutter Entertainment Plc.

The New York-based Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services tribunal ruled that Fox has a 10-year option to acquire an 18.6% stake of FanDuel for $3.7 billion. The price would rise to over $4 billion when factoring in a 5% escalator, according to Flutter.

Fox filed its lawsuit against the Irish gaming company in April 2021, seeking to secure its option to buy a stake in the market-leading FanDuel app. The two companies disagreed over price.

Fox sought a strike price based on the $11.2 billion valuation set in December 2020 when Flutter acquired a 37% stake in FanDuel Group from one of its early private equity investors. Flutter sought a higher valuation.

Both sides agreed to resolve the matter in arbitration. The tribunal on Friday settled on an option price based on a $20 billion valuation for FanDuel, which Flutter heralded as a win.

“Today’s ruling vindicates the confidence we had in our position on this matter and provides certainty

on what it would cost Fox to buy into this business, should they wish to do so," Flutter Chief Executive Peter Jackson said in a statement.

Fox also issued a statement applauding the ruling, saying it gives the media company the option to acquire a "meaningful equity stake in the market leading U.S. online sports betting operation."

As recently as August, Fox Chief Executive Lachlan Murdoch described sports betting as "a huge opportunity" for Fox Sports, telling Wall Street it would fuel viewer engagement. Sports betting is one factor in Rupert Murdoch's proposal to recombine Fox with News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA), according to people familiar with the deal's logic.

Independent directors within both media companies are evaluating the proposal, which would be subject to approval by a majority of non-family shareholders.

The Murdochs' early foray into sports betting has been slow-going. The sports betting app Fox Bet is available in four states, with just 0.2% share of the U.S. market, according to researcher Vixio. A free version called Fox Bet Super 6 has attracted some 6 million users whom Fox hopes to eventually convert to betters.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People make their bets at the FANDUEL sportsbook during the Super Bowl LIII in East Rutherford, New Jersey, U.S., February 3, 2019. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The growth of Fox Bet has stagnated since Flutter acquired Stars Group, the company that helped launch Fox Bet and owns and operates the app.

Fox claimed that Flutter failed to provide reasonable resources behind Fox Bet, a claim Flutter said the tribunal rejected. However, Fox retains the right to acquire up to 50% of the Stars Group's U.S. operations, which includes Fox Bet.

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