Disney to buy "Star Wars" producer for $4.05 billion
By Lisa Richwine and Ronald Grover
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co agreed to buy filmmaker George Lucas's Lucasfilm Ltd and its "Star Wars" franchise for $4.05 billion in cash and stock, a blockbuster deal that includes the surprise promise of a new film in the series in 2015.
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger told analysts on Tuesday that the plan is to release a new movie in the series every two to three years thereafter. The last "Star Wars" picture was "Revenge of the Sith" in 2005, and Lucas has in the past denied any plans for more.
Lucas, a Hollywood icon known for exercising control over the most minute details of the fictional universe he created, will remain as a creative consultant on the new films.
"It's now time for me to pass 'Star Wars' on to a new generation of filmmakers," he said in a statement. Lucas will become the second-largest individual holder of Disney shares, with a 2.2 percent stake.
Disney will pay about half the purchase price in cash and issue about 40 million shares at closing.
"This is one of the greatest entertainment properties of all time," Iger said. Like Disney's purchases of Marvel Entertainment and Pixar studio, LucasFilm will "drive long-term value to our shareholders," he said.
Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said the deal would lower Disney's earnings per share by a low single-digits percentage in fiscal 2013 and 2014. He also said Disney would repurchase all of the issued shares on the open market within the next two years, on top of planned buybacks.
This agreement marks the third time in less than seven years that Disney has signed a massive deal to take over a beloved studio or character portfolio, part of its strategy to acquire brands that can be stretched across TV, movies, theme parks and the Internet. Continued...