UPDATE 11 AM: The Walt Disney Co. just issued the following statement relating to the complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney on May 26 in New York:
The Walt Disney Company has been fully cooperating with this investigation. The reference in the complaint to conversations regarding the ABC Network were and are false.
PREVIOUS 10:15 AM: In what is turning out to be a pretty bizarre story, an insider trading arrest may hold clues to Disney’s plans for selling ABC. A potential sale had been rumored for awhile and as recently as March Disney CEO Bob Iger said that “there are no guarantees in terms of what will remain part of our company and what will not” when asked whether Disney will sell the broadcast network. But now a criminal complaint and a SEC civil suit stemming from the Wednesday arrest of a Disney employee by the FBI in Los Angeles alleges such plans may be more advanced than previously thought.
According to a CNBC report, the legal complaints state that Bonnie Hoxie, secretary to the head of Disney’s corporate communications, and her boyfriend Yonni Sebbag, allegedly offered hedge funds information about Disney’s quarterly earnings report, due out in May. The most intriguing part of the couple’s claims: that Iger was in “serious and advanced negotiations” with two private equity firms to sell ABC. According to CNBC, the two were arrested after attempting to sell the information to undercover FBI agents, for which they allegedly accepted a $15,000 payment. As for ABC itself, it’s expected to go for $6B-$7B if put on the market. UPDATED: In yet another bizarre twist to the story, Hoxie allegedly wanted the money to buy “a $700 McCartney handbag and Stella McCartney shoes,” according to the complaint.
TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.