National Geographic, a nonprofit entity since its founding in 1888, announced on Wednesday that it will become a for-profit venture as Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox expands its ownership in a $725 million deal. Fox will now own 73 percent of NatGeo, while the nonprofit National Geographic Society is left with 27 percent.
The two companies have been working together for 18 years, most recently as 70-30 partners in two joint ventures, one covering international TV channels and one for U.S. channels. The new entity "streamlines the partnership," according to a press release, and hands over the magazine, digital properties, licensing and merchandising businesses to Fox.
"The additional resources will enable The National Geographic Society to basically double its investment in an array of science, research and education programs," the release said. The Society’s endowment will increase to nearly $1 billion.
The partnership will be governed by a board of "equal representation" of Fox and Society representatives, with the chairman post alternating annually. The board chair will alternate annually; Gary Knell, president and CEO of the Society, is first in line.
The deal is expected to close later this year.
“We are privileged to have the opportunity to expand our partnership to continue to bring to audiences around the world, ‘The world and all that is in it,’ as National Geographic Society’s second president Alexander Graham Bell stated more than a century ago," said Fox CEO James Murdoch in a statement. "We believe in the Society’s mission of bringing the world to audiences through science, education and exploration.”