Bob Chapek, CEO of Walt Disney
Patrick T Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Disney Chief Executive Bob Chapek said Thursday that the company’s sports network, ESPN, is looking for a partner to help it move into sports gambling.
“We at ESPN have the ability to do that. Now we need a partner to do that because we’re never going to be a book, that’s never in the cards for the Walt Disney Company,” Chapek told TBEN’s David Faber said in an exclusive interview. “But at the same time, we can do that for us if we can partner with a respected third party.”
The comments come after activist investor Daniel Loeb’s Third Point recently took a new stake in Disney in the second quarter, worth about $1 billion, or 0.4% of the company.
Initially, Loeb urged Disney to spin off its sports ownership and said it would be easier to participate in certain initiatives, such as sports gambling. But on Sunday, Loeb reversed his stance, saying on Twitter: “We have a better understanding of @espn’s potential as a standalone company and another vertical for $DIS to reach a global audience to share advertising and generate subscriber revenue.”
Sports betting was at the heart of Loeb’s previous bid to spin off ESPN.
“We look forward to seeing Mr. Pitaro execute on growth and innovation plans and generate significant synergies as part of The Walt Disney Company,” Loeb added in the Tweet, referring to Disney’s chairman James Pitaro.
Loeb’s turnaround came shortly after Chapek told reporters at Disney’s D23 Expo that he had big plans for the future of ESPN, without releasing any details.