Disney Forms Joint Venture With Asia’s Richest Man And Appoints His Wife as Chair

Mukesh Ambani's wife, Nita Ambani, is set to be head of India's largest media company.

Nita Ambani and Mukesh Ambani
Nita Ambani (left) and Mukesh Ambani. SUJIT JAISWAL/AFP via Getty Images

The Walt Disney Company (DIS) today (Feb. 28) announced a $8.5 billion joint venture with Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, led by Asia’s richest person, Mukesh Ambani, to combine the two companies’ streaming and TV businesses in India. Ambani’s wife, Nita Ambani, has been appointed as chairperson of the new venture, which is set to be India’s largest media and entertainment company.

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Nita Ambani, 60, has been married to Mukesh Ambani for 38 years. The couple has three children together. Nita Ambani is the founder and chairperson of Reliance Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Reliance Industries since 2010. She previously served on Reliance’s board of directors, but resigned from the position last August.

Nita Ambani is also involved in the sports world, as she is the owner of the cricket team Mumbai Indians and the first Indian woman to be elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee.

Last October, Reliance and Disney reportedly engaged in talks about a potential sale of Disney’s India business, Disney Star, to Reliance. If a sale took place, Ambani would’ve spent $10 billion for a controlling stake in Disney Star, previously known as Star India and owned by 21st Century Fox.

One of the key assets of Disney Star is streaming rights to cricket matches of the India Premier League. Disney acquired it through local streaming service Hotstar, a subsidiary of Star India. But in 2022, Viacom18, an Indian media company jointly owned by Ambani’s Reliance and Paramount Global, bought those streaming rights in a $3 billion deal. 

In December 2023, Disney and Reliance came to an agreement and signed a non-binding term sheet to create India’s largest media and entertainment business, splitting ownerships 49 percent for Disney and 51 percent for Reliance. The joint venture announced today will be split 16.34 percent for Reliance, 46.82 percent Viacom18 and 36.84 percent Disney.

“We have always respected Disney as the best media group globally and are very excited at forming this strategic joint venture that will help us pool our extensive resources, creative prowess, and market insights to deliver unparalleled content at affordable prices to audiences across the nation,” Ambani said in a statement today.

In the same press release, Disney CEO Bob Iger said “Reliance has a deep understanding of the Indian market and consumer.” “Together we will create one of the country’s leading media companies, allowing us to better serve consumers with a broad portfolio of digital services and entertainment and sports content.”

Disney Forms Joint Venture With Asia’s Richest Man And Appoints His Wife as Chair