Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Darth Vader are joining Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and the Lion King as properties of the vast Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) media empire.
Disney said Tuesday it has agreed to purchase privately-held Lucasfilm Ltd., owner of the hugely popular Star Wars franchise, for $4.05 billion in a mix of stock and cash.
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The boards of directors of both companies have already approved the deal, according to a statement issued by the companies.
Lucasfilm is owned entirely by the company’s founder and chairman, Star Wars creator George Lucas.
Disney said it will pay half the amount in cash and issue about 40 million shares of its stock to cover the rest. Disney’s shares closed on Friday at $50.08.
Disney has made a habit of acquisitions that add to its successful stable of film franchises. Disney in 2006 purchased Pixar, the animated feature film company that began as a unit of Lucasfilms and was once owned by Apple founder Steve Jobs, and in 2009 purchased legendary comic book publisher Marvel.
“Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas,” Disney CEO Robert A. Iger said in a statement. “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.”
Lucas said, “For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next. It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers.”
In addition to the Star Wars franchise and the myriad products affiliated with that iconic series, Disney will also acquire all of Lucasfilm’s film-making technology. San Francisco-based Lucasfilm operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound. All of the company’s employees will remain in their current locations, the statement said.
Kathleen Kennedy, currently co-chairman of Lucasfilm, will become president of Lucasfilm, and report to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Kennedy will also serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, helping Disney leverage its vast global reach to further extend the Star Wars brand.
The statement said Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films to follow.