By Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times –
Walt Disney Co. has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in a surprise deal that gives the media giant control of the “Star Wars” franchise.
Along with the purchase, Disney announced that it plans to release a seventh live-action “Star Wars” movie in 2015.
The agreement continues Chief Executive Bob Iger’s strategy of growing Disney through huge acquisitions that give the Burbank, Calif., company control of key pieces of intellectual property. In 2009, Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, a deal that resulted in this year’s hit “The Avengers.” In 2006, Disney acquired “Toy Story” and “Cars” maker Pixar Animation Studios for $7.4 billion.
“This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including ‘Star Wars,’ one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney’s unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value,” Iger said in a statement.
In addition to “Star Wars,” Disney’s purchase of San Francisco-based Lucasfilm will give it ownership of special-effects company Industrial Light & Magic, sound company Skywalker Sound and video game publisher LucasArts.
In June, “Star Wars” director and Lucasfilm owner George Lucas announced his plans to retire, and named producer Kathleen Kennedy as chief executive of Lucasfilm, which he wholly owns. Once the Disney acquisition is complete, Kennedy will become president of Disney’s Lucasfilm unit and report to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn.
For fans, the most stunning part of Tuesday’s announcement is likely Disney’s intention to make more “Star Wars” movies. Following the one targeted for release in 2015, the company said “more feature films (are) expected to continue the ‘Star Wars’ saga and grow the franchise well into the future.”
In addition to new movies, Disney will look to use the “Star Wars” franchise throughout its businesses, including theme parks, consumer products, television and digital platforms.
“I’ve always believed that ‘Star Wars’ could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime,” George Lucas said in a statement. “I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, ‘Star Wars’ will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”
Disney is funding approximately half of the purchase price with cash and the rest by issuing 40 million shares of stock. Regulatory authorities must still approve the acquisition before it can close.