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Fox could shell out $125 million to buy TMZ from AT&T

(Still frame courtesy Warner Bros. Domestic Television; Graphic by The Desk)

The Fox Corporation could spend between $100 million and $125 million to acquire the gossip website TMZ from its current parent company AT&T, according to a report.

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal newspaper expanded on discussions first reported by Silicon Valley publication The Information that revealed the popular entertainment portal was up for sale.

Citing unnamed sources, the Journal described conversations between AT&T and Fox had been “on-again, off-again,” and cautioned that a sale was not guaranteed. The Journal said any potential sale would need the support of TMZ’s founder and head editor, Harvey Levin, who has expressed concerns over the amount of editorial control he might have should a sale to Fox go through.

Fox would be a natural suitor for TMZ: In addition to its flagship website, the entertainment publication produces a series of television shows, including “TMZ on TV” and “TMZ Live,” both of which air on Fox-owned stations and many Fox affiliates across the country.

AT&T acquired the TMZ properties when it purchased Time Warner (now WarnerMedia) in 2018 for more than $85 billion.

The potential sale of TMZ comes as AT&T starts to reverse some of its unprofitable media acquisitions. Earlier this year, the company announced plans to spin off WarnerMedia into a separate company, one that would merge with Discovery Communications and be partially owned by AT&T’s public shareholders.

Also this year, AT&T said it would divorce itself from its pay television services, spinning off satellite service DirecTV, IP-based product U-Verse and a companion streaming service into a separate company that adopted the DirecTV name.