OK, it’s rare that Disney does anything that totally blindsides me, but this is one of those moments. Who saw this coming?? And if you said you did, you’re totally lying.
Disney is buying comics giant Marvel for $4 billion. This is huge. Really, really huge. I think it will have as big an impact on the company’s product as their 2006 purchase of Pixar. Aside from whether it’s good or bad, the only real judgment to make at the moment is… it’s big.
Disney now owns Spider-Man. It owns the X-Men. It owns the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four. It owns Captain America. It owns one of the twin pillars, along with D.C., of the comic world, and locks up those thousands of characters and properties just as Warner Brothers controls Batman and Superman.
The deal was just announced, and is yet to be approved, so we don’t yet know the ramifications. The Marvel superheroes already hold court in Orlando at Universal’s Islands of Adventure; I’m sure we’ll soon learn the details and fine print of that contract. That park’s Spider-Man attraction is one of the world’s greatest dark rides; what will become of it? What will become of the endless Marvel movie deals already underway in Hollywood? Will Disney retake the X-Men film rights from the villainous clutches of Tom Rothman at 20th Century Fox?
For a company that was previously worried about how to engage young boys the way that the princess and fairy franchises, not to mention Hannah Montana, enraptured females, this will pretty much solve that issue. I can’t say I don’t wish that Disney had managed to look inside their own creativity to solve these challenges aside from putting pirates everywhere, but purchasing Marvel is definitely a bold and unexpected maneuver.
This’ll certainly make things more interesting at D23. The mind reels at the possibilities, as well as the potential problems, that this deal affords. I can’t say I don’t get excited about the idea of a Disney-branded Avengers film, but at the same time I don’t want Galactus stomping around World Showcase at the end of Illuminations. All things in moderation, guys.
I’m loathe to use the term “breaking,” but I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about this in short order…
UPDATE: A press release appears:
August 31, 2009
DISNEY TO ACQUIRE MARVEL ENTERTAINMENT
Worldwide leader in family entertainment agrees to acquire Marvel and its portfolio of over 5,000 characters
Acquisition highlights Disney’s strategic focus on quality branded content, technological innovation and international expansion to build long-term shareholder value
Burbank, CA and New York, NY, August 31, 2009 —Building on its strategy of delivering quality branded content to people around the world, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) has agreed to acquire Marvel Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE:MVL) in a stock and cash transaction, the companies announced today.
Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney on August 28, 2009, Marvel shareholders would receive a total of $30 per share in cash plus approximately 0.745 Disney shares for each Marvel share they own. At closing, the amount of cash and stock will be adjusted if necessary so that the total value of the Disney stock issued as merger consideration based on its trading value at that time is not less than 40% of the total merger consideration.
Based on the closing price of Disney stock on Friday, August 28, the transaction value is $50 per Marvel share or approximately $4 billion.
“This transaction combines Marvel’s strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor with Disney’s creative skills, unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties, and a business structure that maximizes the value of creative properties across multiple platforms and territories,” said Robert A. Iger, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. “Ike Perlmutter and his team have done an impressive job of nurturing these properties and have created significant value. We are pleased to bring this talent and these great assets to Disney.”
“We believe that adding Marvel to Disney’s unique portfolio of brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and value creation,” Iger said.
“Disney is the perfect home for Marvel’s fantastic library of characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and licensing businesses,” said Ike Perlmutter, Marvel’s Chief Executive Officer. “This is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney’s tremendous global organization and infrastructure around the world.”
Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Marvel including its more than 5,000 Marvel characters. Mr. Perlmutter will oversee the Marvel properties, and will work directly with Disney’s global lines of business to build and further integrate Marvel’s properties.
The Boards of Directors of Disney and Marvel have each approved the transaction, which is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, certain non-United States merger control regulations, effectiveness of a registration statement with respect to Disney shares issued in the transaction and other customary closing conditions. The agreement will require the approval of Marvel shareholders. Marvel was advised on the transaction by BofA Merrill Lynch.
Who writes these things?
UPDATE THE SECOND: Disney and Marvel had a conference call this morning, which I was unable to listen to because to my endless chagrin I have to work for a living. The call was apparently brief, but had a few interesting tidbits.
First, Iger assured everyone that Marvel would retain some level of independence akin to the Pixar deal. The intent, he says, is not to brand Marvel as a Disney product but to better shine a spotlight on Marvel itself. While this is good news, it remains to be seen how well that plan will be enacted. The less embarrassing, clunky attempts at “synergy” the better. Incredibles vs. X-Men on the Xbox, yes. Wolverine on The Suite Life, no.
For now, all current licensing deals will remain in place. This means that Sony will retain the Spider-Man film rights and Fox, unfortunately, will keep the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Paramount’s five-picture deal for the Avengers arc remains in place as well. Disney expects that these existing agreements will lead to an initial loss on the Marvel purchase, but thinks that the deal will pay off handsomely down the road. There seems to have been no mention about Marvel’s theme park licensing deal with Universal.
According to the call, John Lasseter has already been in contact with Marvel over the last few weeks about possible projects; he is allegedly very excited about the possibilities, and I’m not surprised. Combining the Marvel catalogue with the no-doubt comic friendly creatives at Disney and Pixar is bound to stir up some ideas. A Pixar-influenced Runaways or 1602? Yes, please.
Again, I can’t help but admit some level of sadness that Disney seems to reluctant or unable to create its own new intellectual properties these days. But while it would be nice to see some new ideas from Haus Maus, it’s hard to fault them for being drawn to Marvel. The purchase of thousands of possible film or television ideas in one fell swoop is nothing to scoff at. This is going to be big.