In a move seemingly out of nowhere, the Walt Disney Company has announced it is purchasing Lucasfilm for just over $4 billion, certifying sole owner George Lucas a multi-billionaire.
The amount, based on the current value of Disney stock, will be paid half in cash and as 40 million shares of Disney Stock, which last closed at $50.08 before hurricane Sandy shut down the markets.
This transaction fits into the recent three year cycle of major acquisitions for the media giant which includes the 2009 purchase of Marvel Comics for $4 billion and the 2006 purcase of Pixar Studios for $7.4 billion.
In the official statement released today, George 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. 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.”
Disney chairman Robert Iger lauded Lucas’ Star Wars as, “one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time,” and welcomed the company into the Disney family.
The purchase includes Lucas’ stable of cutting edge effects companies including Industrial Light and Magic and Skywalker sound, bringing some of the best Hollywood production facilities under the Disney banner.
However, the most exciting piece of news to come from the announcement is that Disney plans to step up the release of new Star Wars films, which will start with Star Wars: Episode 7 targeted now for a 2015 release. The company hopes this will spark a new series of films, releasing with some regularity, at least through Episodes VIII and IX, tentatively marked for 2017 and 2019 respectively.
Lucasfilm co-chairman Kathleen Kennedy will become the president of the Lucasfilm division of Disney, and will serve as an executive producer on the films, while Lucas himself is being marked as a “creative consultant” for these future projects.
While the news came as a surprise, there is an undeniable logic to Lucas making this move. He has long had a productive relationship with Disney that included the appearance of Star Wars characters in the theme parks, attractions such as Star Tours at Disneyland and Disney Hollywood Studios, and even dedicated Star Wars weekends at Walt Disney World in Florida.
With luck, the act of Lucas passing the franchise along to people who understand and respect the characters and the universe will yield some excellent new movies, television shows and more. And for those of you who will inevitably find a million things to be negative about in the comments section below, let us just remind you of one thing: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
Source: ABC News