Luke Skywalker and Han Solo are joining Mickey Mouse, Buzz Lightyear and Iron Man in Disney's roster of heroes.
Disney is buying Lucasfilm for $4 billion, adding the legendary Star Wars
franchise to the entertainment giant's stable of characters. Lucasfilm
is 100% owned by founder George Lucas. The purchase culminates a one and
a half year pursuit of the Lucas empire, Disney's CEO said.
who receives 40 million Disney shares from the deal, will be the
second-largest non-institutional shareholder of Disney, Bloomberg News
says, behind the trust of deceased Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
The 68-year-old Lucas will serve as a creative consultant but plans to retire.
"For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars
passed from one generation to the next," said Lucas, chairman and CEO
of Lucasfilm, in a statement. "It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on
to a new generation of filmmakers."
Said Disney CEO Robert Iger:
"This is one of the great entertainment properties of all time, one of
the best branded and one of the most valuable, and it's just fantastic
for us to have the opportunity to both buy it, run it and grow it."
The big screen isn't the only place that there might be tales from the galaxy far, far away. "We really like Star Wars' potential on TV as well," Iger says, "and we think (cable-satellite channel) Disney XD will be a great home for that."
buyout is Disney's fourth largest deal ever. It's behind the $19.7
billion, $7.6 billion and $5.2 billion buyouts of Capital Cities/ABC in
1995, Pixar in 2006 and Fox Family in 2001, respectively, says S&P
Capital IQ. It tops the $3.96 billion Disney paid for Marvel in August
Disney expects to more aggressively expand the Star Wars film schedule, Iger said in a statement. Following the release of Episode VII in 2015, "our long term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years," Iger said.
Star Wars Episodes VIII and IX,
Iger said, would follow "probably on a cadence of every other year and
then go from there. . . . The (first) film is in early stage development
Based on Disney's closing price on Oct. 26, the deal is valued at roughly $4.1 billion. Disney (DIS)
will pay half that value in cash and issue 40 million shares of Disney
to pay for the rest. Also included in the deal are special-effects house
Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound and video game company
Lucasfilm spokeswoman Lynne Hale said Disney's "intent
is for everyone (in Lucas' various companies) to stay where they are."
ILM is headquartered in the Presidio in San Francisco, while Skywalker
Sound and Lucasfilm are on a series of ranches Lucas owns in Marin
"As far as the legacy George has created, we don't take
that lightly," Disney chief Iger said. "We definitely plan to expand the
presence of Star Wars in our parks which could include new parks."
Street is hopeful Disney can quickly recoup the money by fully tapping
the potential for more movies, theme park tie-ins and merchandise, says
David Miller, analyst at investment research firm Caris. "If you look at
how acquisitive Disney has been, it's all about content," he says.
Lucasfilm "is one of the great entertainment franchises of all time."
investors were caught off guard by the announcement, but there have
been questions about what Disney would do with its mounting pile of
cash. Disney had $4.4 billion in cash and short-term investments as of
the end of June. "Disney did a good job keeping this quiet," Miller
Kathleen Kennedy, co-chairman of Lucasfilm, will report to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Kennedy, who produced Schindler's List and War Horse, will become the new studio president and be executive producer on the new films.
Film critic Leonard Maltin, also a historian of the medium, was taken aback by the news and had questions about it.
no way of telling where this is going to go at this point," Maltin
said. "Obviously Disney, as they did with Marvel, is investing in a
bluechip property that will yield dividends for years to come.
it's not a fresh property," he added. "But it remains to be seen if
they revive the characters. There are a lot of unanswered questions."
The latest part of the Star Wars saga, Star Wars Episode VII, is targeted for a 2015 release.
Peter Sealey, a California professor and former president of
marketing and distribution for Columbia Pictures, says it appears Lucas
gains the most out of the deal.
"George Lucas was never a part of
Hollywood, he was always an outlier who left for northern California as
soon as he had a hit," Sealey said.
"So this is an end of an
area, the story of a brilliant filmmaker who had one incredibly long
home run. This was the only exit strategy he really had. He never wanted
to grow the company."
Sealey said he can't imagine Disney would
let Lucasfilm's entities keep operating away from Disney's home base in
the Los Angeles area. "I don't see how or why you keep any of this up in
that area, it'll all move down to Burbank," he said.
Disney's theatrical lineup could use a boost in some areas. While the studio's animated Wreck-It Ralph, due Friday, has healthy buzz, other recent releases such as Mars Needs Moms and John Carter have disappointed.
actually determined that we'd be better off as a company releasing a
sequel to Star Wars than probably most other, I'll call them 'not yet
determined' films," Iger said. "So we love the fact that this will take
its place in our live-action strategy as an already-branded,