Matt Krantz, USA TODAY
Luke Skywalker and Han Solo are joining Mickey Mouse, Buzz Lightyear and Iron Man in Disney's roster of heroes.
Disney (DIS) is buying Lucasfilm for $4 billion, adding the legendary Star Wars franchise to the entertainment giant's stable of characters. Lucasfilm is 100% owned by Founder George Lucas.
Said Disney CEO Robert Iger: "This is one of the great entertainment properties of all time, one of the best branded and one of the most valuable, and it's just fantastic for us to have the opportunity to both buy it, run it and grow it."
The buyout is Disney's fourth largest deal ever. It's behind the $19.7 billion, $7.6 billion and $5.2 billion buyouts of Capital Cities/ABC in 1995, Pixar in 2006 and Fox Family in 2001, respectively, says S&P Capital IQ. It tops the $3.96 billion Disney paid for Marvel in August 2009.
Disney expects to more aggressively expand the Star Wars film schedule, Iger said in a statement. Following the release of Episode 7 in 2015, "our long term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years," Iger said.
Based on Disney's closing price on Oct. 26, the deal is valued at roughly $4.1 billion. Disney will pay half the deal value in cash and issue 40 million shares of Disney to pay for the deal.
"For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next," said George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm, in a statement. "It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers."
Kathleen Kennedy, co-chairman of LucasFilm, will report to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn.
The latest part of the Star Wars saga, Star Wars Episode 7, is targeted for a 2015 release.
Peter Sealey, a California professor and former president of marketing and distribution for Columbia Pictures, says it appears Lucas gains the most out of the deal.
"George Lucas was never a part of Hollywood, he was always an outlier who left for northern California as soon as he had a hit," Sealey said.
"So this is an end of an area, the story of a brilliant filmmaker who had one incredibly long home run. This was the only exit strategy he really had. He never wanted to grow the company."