Disney bets on long-term prospects of ‘Star Wars’
SAN RAFAEL — Marin County resident and filmmaker George Lucas and The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) today announced a deal to sell Lucasfilm Ltd. to Disney for $4.05 billion in cash and stock.
The deal involves San Francisco-based Lucasfilm’s operations and products, such as the Star Wars multimedia franchise and licensed merchandise, and operating entities LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, which is in a 153,000-square-foot complex on Mr. Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch property in west Marin.
The joint announcement said the plan is to keep Lucasfilm employees where they are. Mr. Lucas retains ownership of his real estate, including Skywalker Ranch, according to a Lucasfilm spokeswoman. There have been no discussions with Disney to move employees to other locations, such as 120,000 square feet of vacant office space Disney has under lease at the Hamilton Landing development in Novato, she added.
“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” Mr. Lucas, the sole owner of Lucasfilm, said in a statement. “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. 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 has been integrating Star Wars-themed attractions at its amusement parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris and Tokyo.
Lucasfilm Co-Chairman Kathleen Kennedy would become president of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. She will be brand manager of the Star Wars franchise and executive producer on future releases, such as the planned Star Wars: Episode 7 in 2015. Movies for episodes 8 and 9 and other stories in the franchise are planned for release every two or three years. Mr. Lucas’ stated role will be as creative consultant.
Valuation of the deal was based on the Friday closing price of Disney’s stock, or $50.08 a share. It would be paid half in cash and the other half in 40 million shares of stock. Board of directors of both companies approved the acquisition.
Lucasfilm started in 1971 with the release of the movie THX 1138. Mr. Lucas set up Industrial Light & Magic in east San Rafael in 1975 to start production on Star Wars. Skywalker Sound moved to Skywalker Ranch in 1987. Most Lucasfilm operations moved to San Francisco’s Presidio area in 2005.
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