The merger of Fairfax Media with Nine Entertainment has cleared its final hurdle – paving the way for one of the biggest media consolidation moves in Australian history – after the Federal Court approved the $3 billion deal.
At a hearing in Sydney on Tuesday, Justice Gleeson gave the merger a big tick, despite ongoing efforts by the former chief executive of real estate platform Domain, Antony Catalano, to stop it in its tracks.
Justice Gleeson said reasons for the decision would be published “in due course”.
Lawyers for Mr Catalano argued the Fairfax board gave its shareholders no opportunity to consider his competing offer at last week’s annual meeting.
Mr Catalano had offered to buy up to 19.9 per cent of Fairfax shares and sell the company’s non-core assets, including Macquarie Media, Stan, and Fairfax publications in regional Australia and New Zealand.
However, only Nine’s deal was put to Fairfax shareholders. More than 80 per cent voted in favour of the merger.
The merger will now happen on December 7. The combined group, to be called Nine, will operate jointly from December 10.
It will be led by Hugh Marks and Peter Costello, the chief executive and chairman of Nine Entertainment respectively.
Fairfax shares will stop trading on the Australian Securities Exchange on Wednesday.
Mr Catalano has yet to decide if he will appeal against the decision.
In a statement to Fairfax staff on Tuesday, chief executive Greg Hywood said the merger implementation team had been working to ensure the newly combined media group hit the ground running and stayed focused on serving audiences and advertisers.