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.
The deal unites a boutique Northern California film studio that brought special effects into the digital era with a venerable Hollywood powerhouse that has shown a knack for getting the most out of big-name entertainment brands.
Disney plans to release at least three more films in the Star Wars sci-fi saga that ranks among the biggest movie franchises of all time, Chief Executive Bob Iger told analysts on Tuesday. The last "Star Wars" picture was "Revenge of the Sith" in 2005.
Although Lucas has in the past denied plans for any new "Star Wars" movies, he said in a video interview released Tuesday on Starwars.com that he had already created story treatments outlining three more films as well as many other Star Wars story lines.
Lucas, an icon in the industry known for exercising control over the most minute details of the fictional universe he created, will remain a creative consultant on the new films, although in the video interview he cast the sale as part of a long-held personal desire to exit the mainstream film industry.
In a statement on Tuesday, Lucas said: "It's now time for me to pass 'Star Wars' on to a new generation of filmmakers." He 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. Continued...