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Disney to acquire Marvel for US$4 billion

It looks like Mickey Mouse and Spider-Man will be joining forces, as The Walt Disney Company announced today plans to buy Marvel Entertainment for US$4 billion. Read on for details from this morning's conference call with the top brass from the two companies.
August 31, 2009

It looks like Mickey Mouse and Spider-Man will be joining forces, as The Walt Disney Company announced today plans to buy Marvel Entertainment for US$4 billion. Read on for details with the top brass from the two companies.

The acquisition will see the House of Mouse taking ownership of Marvel’s portfolio of characters, including Spidey, Iron Man, X-Men, Captain America, among the 5,000-plus properties. Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter will oversee the superhero IPs, working directly with Disney to build and integrate the properties globally.

In this morning’s live investor conference call, Disney CEO Bob Iger stated, ‘The goal is not to rebrand Marvel Disney, but in fact, the opposite, and put a greater spotlight on Marvel,’ using its licensing and sales success to drive growth outside the US. Disney senior EVP and CFO Tom Staggs noted that just under 50% of Marvel’s licensing revenue is international and said there’s ‘a growing opportunity to bring up the international licensing mix over time.’

Deals that Marvel currently has in place with other third-party partners in consumer products and film and DVD distribution will remain as-is until they expire.

Many specifics to how the two companies will merge have yet to be revealed, but Disney’s recently rebranded boy-targeted channel Disney XD has been marked as a site ‘to build an even stronger Marvel foundation.’

On the consumer products front, Marvel has relationships with some of the bigger international retailers, but not all of them, and Staggs stated that instead of having agency relationships in certain markets, Disney has the infrastructure in place to more broadly expose and develop the IPs.

With Marvel’s deep roots in the comic book biz and Disney’s own robust book division, both companies will be looking to expand their presence in publishing.

Comparisons to Disney’s Pixar acquisition were also inevitable and questions about cross-pollination between Marvel and Pixar creative and the potential to bring 3-D to Marvel filmed entertainment offerings were also floated. The upper brass responded that John Lasseter and Marvel creative execs are looking for opportunities and that ‘sparks will fly.’

As for the reasons behind the acquisition, Iger stated that it ‘wasn’t a must-do deal,’ but rather ‘a great opportunity at the right time for both companies.’

Disney has offered US$30 cash and 0.745 Disney shares per Marvel share, adding up to roughly US$50 per Marvel share or US$4 billion.

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