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Disney to sell Star India to Viacom18, Bohdi Tree

Chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Mukesh Ambani

Chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Mukesh Ambani. Photo: SUJIT JAISWAL/AFP via Getty Images

Disney is close to deal to sell 60% of its India business to Viacom18 and Bodhi Tree Systems in a deal that values it at $3.9 billion, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The deal price is significantly less than the $15-16 billion the business was valued at when Disney bought it from Fox.

Details: Viacom18 will hold the majority stake, around 51%, while Bohdi Tree will hold a 9% stake. Disney will keep the remaining 40%.

  • Viacom18 is a joint venture between billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries, Paramount Global. Bodhi Tree Systems is an investment firm founded by James Murdoch and ex-Star India CEO Uday Shankar.
  • Shankar was CEO of Star India for a decade until he left in 2020, a year after Disney acquired the business. Murdoch helped to build Star India during his days with Fox.
  • Disney's India business, also known as Star India, includes the company's family of TV networks, streaming service Hotstar and a minority interest in satellite TV company Tata Sky.

The big picture: This marks an inglamaourus ending for Disney's ambitions with Star India, which was considered one of the crown jewels of its $71.3 billion takoever of 21st Century Fox.

  • The loss of hugely popular cricket league streaming rights — to Viacom18, no less — sunk the business.
  • Disney was able to radically beef up its subscriber count when it integrated Disney+ within Star India's preexisting Hotstar streaming service in 2020.
  • At one point, it accounted for more subscribers than any other territory, including the U.S., but the service was priced very low in India, which dragged down revenue.

What's next: The deal is expected to close this month.

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