Activist investor Loeb drops support for independent ESPN

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Activist investor Daniel Loeb said Sunday that he is no longer pushing Disney Corp. to spin off or sell its blockbuster cable network ESPN.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek had rejected Loeb’s urging in an interview with the Financial Times, published Sunday, in which Chapek said Disney had been “deluged” by companies expressing interest in ESPN, which he took as a sign of ESPN’s potential.

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This weekend Chapek spelled out plans to make ESPN a growth engine for Disney in multiple media interviews, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

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Loeb tweeted Sunday morning, in response to the FT story, “We have a better understanding” of ESPN’s “potential as a standalone business” and as “another vertical for Disney to reach a global audience to generate ad and subscriber revenues.”

Loeb added that he “looked forward” to seeing ESPN chief Jimmy Pitaro “execute on the growth and innovation plans, generating considerable synergies as part of The Walt Disney company.”

Loeb acquired a large stake in Disney last month and began pushing for Disney to spin off ESPN, one the most profitable cable networks, saying that it could help Disney reduce its debt load.

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