By Meg James

Los Angeles Times

Walt Disney Co. has set the date: It expects to wrap up its $71.3 billion acquisition of much of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox by March 20.

Disney’s purchase of the Fox assets — first unveiled in December 2017 — will likely transform the Burbank company into an entertainment Goliath, towering over its traditional competitors.

Disney’s goal is to expand its programming pipeline to better compete against Netflix, Amazon.com and Apple Inc.

These technology companies have sparked major shifts in consumers’ viewing behavior.

Disney on Tuesday announced a timetable for staging various components of the complicated deal, including financing and exchange offers.

The move came after Mexico’s telecommunications regulator, IFT, approved the Disney-Fox deal late Monday, according to Bloomberg News.

Winning Mexico’s consent was the final hurdle for Disney to wrap up its nine-month quest to secure all of the government approvals that it needed.

Last summer, U.S. antitrust regulators approved the deal and stipulated Disney must sell Fox’s 22 regional sports networks.

Murdoch’s company is expected to first spin off assets that it plans to keep, including the Fox broadcast network, Fox News Channel and the two national sports channels. Those properties will fold into a new company known simply as Fox.

The Murdochs will retain Fox Studios. Existing 21st Century Fox shareholders will have the option to accept Disney shares or cash out.

Disney will then acquire the remaining 21st Century Fox assets, including the prolific television and movie studios, FX channels, National Geographic channels and Fox’s 30 percent stake in Hulu. The deal is rich in international television assets.

In recent weeks, Disney has been stitching up the final regulatory approvals from Latin American countries, including Brazil and Mexico.

Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger earlier this year flew to Brazil to help hammer out an agreement to satisfy Latin American regulators.

The compromise requires that Disney sell the Fox Sports channels in Brazil and Mexico.

The combination of the two companies is expected to lead to substantial job losses.

Company insiders have said there could be more than 3,000 layoffs coming as the companies figure out staffing.

Disney said it would bring over several key Fox executives to run important operations, including Walt Disney Television.

Peter Rice, one of Murdoch’s longtime lieutenants, will become chairman of the television group, reporting to Iger.

Dana Walden, who has led Fox’s television studio for two decades, will become head of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment. John Landgraf, chief executive of FX Networks, will continue to lead those channels.

Former Warner Bros. executive Craig Hunegs will be president of Disney Television Studios.

On the film side, Fox’s Emma Watts will run the 20th Century Fox studio and Fox Searchlight, the specialty division, will continue to be helmed by Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley. Elizabeth Gabler will continue in her role running production at Fox 2000.

The Fox executives will report to Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn.

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