Bob Chapek, CEO of Walt Disney
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Disney Chief Executive Bob Chapek said Thursday that the company’s sports network ESPN is looking for a partner to help it step 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 cards for the Walt Disney Company,” Chapek told CNBC’s David Faber said in an exclusive interview. “But at the same time, to be able to partner with a well-respected third party can do that for us.”
The comments come after activist investor Daniel Loeb’s Third Point recently took a new stake in Disney during the second quarter, valued at about $1 billion, or 0.4% of the company.
Initially, Loeb pushed for Disney to spin out the sports property, saying it would be easier for it to take part in certain initiatives, such as sports gambling. But on Sunday Loeb reversed his position, saying on Twitter, “We have a better understanding of @espn’s potential as a standalone business and another vertical for $DIS to reach a global audience to generate ad and subscriber revenues.”
Sports betting was at the core of Loeb’s earlier push to spin off ESPN.
“We look forward to seeing Mr. Pitaro execute on the growth and innovation plans, generating considerable synergies as part of The Walt Disney Company,” Loeb added to the Tweet, referencing Disney’s Chairman James Pitaro.
Loeb’s reversal came shortly after Chapek told reporters during Disney’s D23 Expo that he had big plans for ESPN’s future, without disclosing details.