Star Wars meets the mouse: Disney buys Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion

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Disney is the new home of Star Wars. On Tuesday, with the New York Stock Exchange closed due to Hurricane Sandy, Disney announced it has acquired George Lucas’s Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion, saying the Star Wars franchise’s potential for “new business models including digital platforms” is “in strong alignment with Disney’s strategic priorities for continued long-term growth.”

The acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approval, will be roughly half cash and half stock. It includes all of Lucasfilm — not just the Star Wars franchise but “its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production,” as well as “the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years.”

“We’re likely to focus more on social and mobile than we are on console,” Disney chairman and CEO Robert Iger said in an investor call Tuesday afternoon, “given the nature of these characters and how well-known they are…they lend themselves quite nicely to [these] platforms.”

Kathleen Kennedy, who has served as co-chairman of Lucasfilm since June when George Lucas announced that he was getting ready for retirement, will become president, reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. She “will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant.” Star Wars Episode 7 is slated for a 2015 release, with the next films to come every two to three years after that. “A lot of the value that we attribute to this deal is [still] to come,” Jay Rasulo, Disney senior EVP and CFO said on the investor call.

Lucas — who was not on the investor call — said in a statement, “I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”

Disney would not disclose Lucasfilm’s annual revenue, but the Star Wars films have pulled in over $4.4 billion worldwide.

Disney’s most recent major acquisition was Marvel Entertainment in 2009. Disney bought Pixar Animation Studios for $7.4 billion in 2006.

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