UPDATE:The official press release announcing the acquisition, as well as photo of George Lucas and Disney CEOBob Iger signing the official deal, have been added to the bottom of this post.
The Walt Disney Company has been working hard to develop strong science-fiction properties over the last few years. But while they've found big success in the acquisition of Marvel Studios - with The Avengers becoming the third biggest release of all time - they've slipped in other areas. In 2010 the studio released Tron Legacy, which ended up making quite a bit of money, but wasn't quite the blockbuster success that everyone expected it to be. Then there was John Carter earlier this year, which was an even bigger disappointment, managing to make only $73 million domestically on a $250 million budget. Now, though, they no longer need to worry about developing sci-fi franchises however - because they've just bought Star Wars.
A truly stunning development, The Walt Disney Company has purchased Lucasfilm for an amazing $4.05 billion in both cash and stock - but that's not even the most stunning part. According to the trade report, they will now begin serious development on Star Wars Episode VII - presumably a direct sequel to Return of the Jedi - and plan to have it in theaters by 2015. Legendary producer Kathleen Kennedy who is currently the co-chair of Lucasfilm, will be promoted to become the new president of the company and will report directly to Alan Horn, the current Walt Disney Studios head.
This is definitely a lot to take in. The prequels were an absolute disaster, but could they ever be redeemed? How insane is it that we could be seeing The Avengers 2, Justice League and Star Wars Episode VII in theaters in three years?
This is obviously a big story and will generate a lot of discussion. Are you happy that the Star Wars franchise will continue?
While we wait for more details, here's the photo included with the official announcement-- the beginning of a new era.
Burbank, CA and San Francisco, CA, October 30, 2012 – Continuing its strategy of delivering exceptional creative content to audiences around the world, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. in a stock and cash transaction. Lucasfilm is 100% owned by Lucasfilm Chairman and Founder, George Lucas.
Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney stock on October 26, 2012, the transaction value is $4.05 billion, with Disney paying approximately half of the consideration in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing. The final consideration will be subject to customary post-closing balance sheet adjustments.
"Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas," said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. "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."
"For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next," said George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm. "It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. 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. 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."
Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm, a leader in entertainment, innovation and technology, including its massively popular and "evergreen" Star Wars franchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.
Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm, will become President of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Additionally she will serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, working directly with Disney's global lines of business to build, further integrate, and maximize the value of this global franchise. Ms. Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future.
The acquisition combines two highly compatible family entertainment brands, and strengthens the long-standing beneficial relationship between them that already includes successful integration of Star Wars content into Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris and Tokyo.
Driven by a tremendously talented creative team, Lucasfilm's legendary Star Wars franchise has flourished for more than 35 years, and offers a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories to drive continued feature film releases and franchise growth over the long term. Star Wars resonates with consumers around the world and creates extensive opportunities for Disney to deliver the content across its diverse portfolio of businesses including movies, television, consumer products, games and theme parks. Star Wars feature films have earned a total of $4.4 billion in global box to date, and continued global demand has made Star Wars one of the world's top product brands, and Lucasfilm a leading product licensor in the United States in 2011. The franchise provides a sustainable source of high quality, branded content with global appeal and is well suited for new business models including digital platforms, putting the acquisition in strong alignment with Disney's strategic priorities for continued long-term growth.
The Lucasfilm acquisition follows Disney's very successful acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel, which demonstrated the company's unique ability to fully develop and expand the financial potential of high quality creative content with compelling characters and storytelling through the application of innovative technology and multiplatform distribution on a truly global basis to create maximum value. Adding Lucasfilm to Disney's portfolio of world class brands significantly enhances the company's ability to serve consumers with a broad variety of the world's highest-quality content and to create additional long-term value for our shareholders.
The Boards of Directors of Disney and Lucasfilm have approved the transaction, which is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, certain non-United States merger control regulations, and other customary closing conditions. The agreement has been approved by the sole shareholder of Lucasfilm.