The Walt Disney Company is buying Marvel Entertainment for $4-billion (E2.7bn), bringing characters like Hulk, X-Men and Spider-Man into the house of Mouse. Under the deal, which will be completed by a combination of cash and stock, Disney will acquire ownership of around 5,000 Marvel characters.
The acquisition is expected to help Disney balance its portfolio by appealing to male fans of Marvel’s superheroes, alongside home-grown female-friendly success stories such as Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers.
“This transaction, which combines a world-renowned library of characters with Disney’s creative skills and a business structure, maximises the value of creative properties across multiple platforms and territories,” says Disney president and CEO Robert Iger. “We believe that adding Marvel to Disney’s unique portfolio of brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and value creation.”
“Disney is the perfect home for Marvel’s fantastic library of characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and licensing businesses,” says Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter. “This is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney’s tremendous organisation and infrastructure around the world.”
The boards of both companies have approved the transaction, which awaits an antitrust review and the approval of Marvel shareholders. Marvel currently has several deals with other movie studios and theme parks. Disney said it will honour and re-examine these upon expiration.
Marvel’s licensing agreements with Universal for its rides at Islands of Adventure in Orlando, including The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Doctor Doom’s FearFall and The Incredible Hulk rollercoaster, are apparently unaffected by the acquisition. According to the company’s filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Universal Orlando retains the rights for as long as its attractions are in operation. The same holds true for the Spider-Man attraction at Universal Studios Japan. However, the US deal only covers theme parks east of the Mississippi River, potentially opening the way for Disney to integrate Marvel properties into its parks in California.
“As we get outside of Orlando – and Spider-Man in Japan – we have an opportunity in theme parks and, over time, we’ll explore just how best to take advantage of that,” confirmed Walt Disney Company chief financial officer Tom Staggs during a media, telecommunications and entertainment conference hosted in September by the Bank of America in California.