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.”
Speaking later on the topic, Lucas confirmed his pending retirement noting that hiring Kennedy was only the first step and that with her, he had developed the remaining portion of the third Star Wars trilogy as well as enough material ‘for a hundred years.’ The final step in his retirement was to find a caretaker for the company, which he found in The Walt Disney Company. Lucas’ plan is to engage in philanthropy, experimental films and other activities he felt he could not take Lucasfilm through.
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.
Star Wars creator and filmmaker George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters (left): Princess Leia-Minnie, R2-MK, Darth Goofy, Jedi Mickey and Stormtrooper Donald on Aug. 14, 2010 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Lucas is in central Florida for “Star Wars Celebration V,” the official Lucasfilm fan event that is taking place this week at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. He visited Walt Disney World Resort to attend Disney’s “Last Tour to Endor” special event.
“The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart poses Aug. 14, 2010 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. with Star Wars-inspired Disney characters Stormtrooper Donald Duck and Princess Leia Minnie Mouse. Stewart was in Orlando as a special host of “Star Wars Celebration V,” the official Lucasfilm fan event held this week at the Orange County Convention Center. At the convention center earlier in the day, Stewart took the stage with Star Wars creator George Lucas and interviewed him live in front of thousands of fans.
Photos by Todd Anderson, courtesy of Disney.
George Lucas to Present Award to John Lasseter and Pixar Directors; Pixar to Screen Footage and Teach Classes
ROME (Hollywood Reporter/Reuters) – “Star Wars” creator George Lucas will make his first trip to the Venice Film Festival to present the Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement to John Lasseter and the directors of Disney-Pixar, festival organizers said Thursday.
The presentation, which will take place September 6 in the Palazzo del Cinema’s Sala Grande, will be held in conjunction with screenings of new 3D version of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2.” Lasseter directed both films. The evening also will include the premiere of a 10-minute clip from “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney’s return to hand-drawn animation, and the screening of a new sequence from the in-production project “Toy Story 3.”
A day later, Lasseter and Disney-Pixar’s Brad Bird, Peter Docter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich will host a two-session master class, with one session reserved for young European animators.
Though the trip will be the first to the Venice festival for Lucas, the fest was the platform for the European release of two of the films in his “Star Wars” series: 1980′s “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” in 1983.
The 66th edition of the Venice Festival opens September 2 and runs through September 12.
(Written By Eric J. Lyman, Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)