Nine Entertainment and Fairfax Media have cleared the final hurdle to become one, with the Federal Court of Australia approving the merger of the two media companies this morning.
However, the court’s decision to approve the deal wasn’t met without a challenge from former Domain CEO Antony Catalano and Aurora Funds Management. Both launched separate applications to scuttle the merger, but were unsuccessful.
Catalano’s intention to block the Nine-Fairfax merger was already known, with the ex-Domain chief having sent a letter to Fairfax chairman Nick Falloon the night before shareholders approved the deal with an alternative offer.
However, Fairfax didn’t consider Catalano’s offer of buying 19.9 per cent of the company’s shares and returning cash to shareholders by selling non-core assets as an alternative to the deal with Nine because it “[did] not constitute a superior proposal”.
The Federal Court’s decision also came after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced it would not oppose the Nine-Fairfax merger, despite repeated calls for it to be blocked by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (which you can read about here and here).
The new company, which will be known as Nine, will begin operating on 10 December. Catalanoand Aurora have until 7 December to appeal the court’s decision.
In a note to staff following the court’s decision, Nine CEO Hugh Marks said: “This deal is all about our strategy for the future together and it promises exciting opportunities for our employees, our clients and our audiences.
“Together, we will provide our audiences with the best of entertainment and quality journalism on the platform they choose. As one company.
“Today, we begin the final planning for our first day of operation, Monday December 10. There is still much to do, and the teams at Nine and Fairfax have been working together with goodwill from both sides to ensure a smooth and successful transition.
“Over the next fortnight, we will be in a position to share the new organisational structure and impact on the key divisions of the business.”
Last month, Nine and Fairfax revealed a two-year, $50 million cost savings plan for once they join forces, with media sales teams in the firing line.