Marvel Approves Disney Merger

The deal is done: Marvel shareholders have approved the company's acquisition by the Walt Disney Company. The deal will give Disney Marvel's more than 5,000 characters and its licensing, comic book and movie business. Disney's paying $4.3 billion dollars for the company, a price that's risen along with Disney's stock price since the deal was announced in August; stockholders receive $30 per share in cash plus .745 Disney shares for each Marvel share.

Now we'll be watching to see which Marvel Characters Disney pulls out and puts in the spotlight and when the comic book characters will start showing up in the theme parks. One place Marvel's characters are sure to show up fairly soon is Disney XD, a new successful cable channel targeting boys.

The deal ties Disney to rival media giants, as Marvel is committed to deals with other media companies. Marvel and Sony Pictures Entertainment are in a joint venture for Spider-Man merchandise, and Sony is making Spider-Man 4, due out in 2011. Marvel also has a distribution deal with Paramount Pictures for its next five films, including "Iron Man 2," (expected to be the biggest film next year) and "Thor" which comes out . And Marvel characters are licensed to Universal Orlando's theme parks, which are owned by Blackstone and GE's NBC Universal.

Wall Street seems confident in the deal, Disney's largest since it bought Pixar Animation for $7.4 billion in stock in 2006, and for good reason. The Pixar acquisition has been incredibly successful, not only have all the films been hits, but the Pixar characters have been a great asset across Disney's divisions, from the theme parks to consumer products. And Pixar's chief, John Lasseter, has been a huge asset to the company, lending his magic touch on theme park rides and Disney's hand-drawn animation.

Disney's strong suit is a unique ability to build valuable brands and exploit them across all its businesses. Here Marvel's army of 5,000 superheroes will be in good hands. Disney learned how to incorporate a massive acquisition like this while leaving some autonomy with Pixar. And now Disney will be able to use an arsenal of new characters to build the same kind of connection with young boys that its "Princess" and "Faeries" franchises have built with young girls. Not a bad way to start the new year.

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