Haim Saban, the children's TV programming mogul who produced "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," has exercised his right to have Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. buy out his interest in Fox Family Worldwide, a source familiar with the matter said.
A sale would give Murdoch full control of the Fox Family Channel, a thriving cable network that reaches 79 million U.S. homes, but at a cost that could be as high as $2 billion in cash.
Saban triggered a clause in his contract with News Corp. that forces the conglomerate to pay fair market value for Saban's 49.5% of Fox Family Worldwide. News Corp. also owns 49.5%, and media investment bank Allen & Co. owns the remaining 1%.
Saban had until Dec. 31 to exercise his option to be bought out, and he did so in a letter sent to News Corp. on Thursday, according to the source.
The move triggers a process in which investment banks for each company will make estimates of the fair market value of the company by Jan. 31. Saban hired Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.; News Corp. hired Bear Stearns & Co.
If the estimates are within 10% of each other, News Corp. must pay right away. If there is a wider gap, a third bank would be brought in for another assessment.
Saban, whose credits also include "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," formed Fox Family Worldwide five years ago in cooperation with Fox Broadcasting Inc., a subsidiary of News Corp. He serves as chief executive of Fox Family Worldwide, though it is unclear that he would stay in that role once his stake is sold.