Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek said Thursday that the company’s sports network ESPN is looking for a partner to help it get into sports gambling.
“We at ESPN have the ability to do that. Now we’re going to need a partner to do that because we’re never going to be a book, that’s never in the Walt Disney Company’s plans,” Chapek told CNBC’s David Faber in an exclusive interview. “But at the same time, being able to partner with a respected third party can do that for us.”
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The comments come after investor Daniel Loeb’s Third Point recently took a new stake in Disney in the second quarter valued at about $1 billion, or 0.4 percent of the company.
Loeb initially pushed for Disney to spin off the sports property, saying it would make it easier for him to participate in certain initiatives, such as sports gambling. But on Sunday, Loeb changed his stance, saying on Twitter: “We better understand the potential of @espn as a standalone business and another vertical for $DIS to reach a global audience to generate ad and subscriber revenue.”
Sports betting was at the heart of Loeb’s earlier push to spin off ESPN.
“We look forward to seeing Mr. Pitaro execute plans for growth and innovation, generating significant synergies as part of The Walt Disney Company,” Loeb added in the tweet, referring to Disney chairman James Pitaro.
Loeb’s reversal came shortly after Chapek told reporters at Disney’s D23 Expo that he has big plans for ESPN’s future, without elaborating.