Iger, Lucas Weigh in on Disney's $4 Billion Lucasfilm Acquisition
Bob Iger made his third major acquisition for Disney (DIS) - buying Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion, roughly half-cash, half-stock.
Disney is buying not just the Star Wars franchise, which has grossed $4.4 billion worldwide, but also digital effects studios LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound.
I sat down with Iger as well as George Lucas to discuss how this deal came about and what it means for the future of Lucasfilm's assets, as well as Disney's bottom line.
Bob Iger said: "This was a great opportunity: when you look at the world of entertainment, there is almost nothing like this.
This is one of the most iconic, one of the most successful, one of the highest-quality entertainment brands that exist in the world.
And we thought it was a wonderful opportunity for this company to bring it into Disney and continue the great legacy that George created over 35 years ago." Disney says it will release Lucasfilm's next major film — Star Wars:Episode 7 — in 2015, the same year Iger says the acquisition should be accretive to the company.
But even before the next film in the mega-franchise, this is already a major asset, largely because of its consumer product licensing, which the company says will generate some $215 million in revenue this year.
Iger says Lucasfilm's consumer products are roughly on the same scale as Marvel's were, when Disney bought that studio for $4 billion in 2009.
That acquisition has turned out to be a success, despite various limitations on how Disney could use those Marvel assets because of pre-existing deals.
Disney said on a conference call with analysts that Disney will have many fewer limitations when it comes to Lucasfilm.
It's Disney's success with Marvel since the acquisition, as well Pixar, which it bought for $7.4 billion in 2006, that inspired Lucas to have confidence in the media giant's stewardship of his company.
Lucas, who says he's moving into semi-retirement, plans to keep consulting to the company.
"Disney really understands how to bring an outside property into their fold and keep its integrity going," Lucas said.
Disney's expertise with consumer products is another factor that drew Lucas to this deal.
"One of the large (sources of income) we have is consumer products, which is why we came to Disney because they have the best consumer products operation in the world," Lucas said.
"We always thought of ourselves as being second to Disney, so we thought it would be to both of our advantage to put them together." Though consumer products is a cornerstone of this deal, the real opportunity will come when Disney revives the film franchise with a sequel in 2015.
"Even though we make quite a bit of money with just the licensing, when we actually make a movie which now they're going to start doing," Lucas says, "it really goes through the roof." And it's not just movies- Iger says Disney will build on Lucasfilm's strength in video games by rolling out mobile and social games.
And the digital animation and sound studios will continue to sell their services across Hollywood- though access is certainly a benefit to Disney, Iger says they won't use them exclusively.
Iger has made it his mission to snap up some of the most iconic brands in entertainment — first Pixar, then Marvel.
Adding Star Wars to the mix just further solidifies Disney's expertise with mega franchises, this one yet another that builds on Marvel to appeal to boys, the way its princesses do to girls.
-By CNBC's Julia Boorstin
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