The Walt Disney Company has agreed to acquire George Lucas’s ‘Star Wars’ franchise for $4.05bn (£2.5bn) and make a seventh film in the series.
“Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas,” Robert Iger, Disney’s chairman and chief executive explained.
“This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney’s unique and unparalleled creativity.”
The company also said that half the price will be paid in stock and Disney plans to issue about 40m shares to cover the deal.
The world-famous filmmaker, who is 68 years old, said he was passing on Star Wars to a new generation of filmmakers.
“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” he said. “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.”
He went on, adding that the deal meant the franchise could flourish. “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,” he added.
The new ‘Star Wars’ owner unveiled its plans to release at least three more films in the sci-fi franchise that ranks among the biggest movie franchises of all time.
The last Star Wars picture Revenge of the Sith hit the cinemas seven years ago. Although the veteran filmmaker has previously denied plans for any new Star Wars movies, in a video interview released Tuesday on starwars.com Lucas said that he had already created story treatments outlining three more films as well as many other Star Wars story lines.
The next movie installment is set to be Episode 7 in the series, followed by Episodes 8 and 9, Disney’s chairman said. The company plans to release a new movie in the saga every two to three years thereafter, he added.
Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo estimated that the purchase would lower Disney’s earnings per share by a low single-digit percentage in fiscal 2013 and 2014, The First Post writes.
He added that Disney would repurchase all of the issued shares on the open market within the next two years, on top of planned buybacks.
“Disney already has a great portfolio and this adds one more,” said Morningstar analyst Michael Corty. “They don’t have any holes, but their past deals have been additive.”
Disney’s CEO said he and Lucas first discussed a possible sale last year. Lucas was thinking about his retirement, and Iger was looking to add another well-known brand to the Disney empire.
The two signed the deal at Disney’s Burbank, California, headquarters on Tuesday. “Everywhere I went, Star Wars was already there, and sometimes they got there ahead of us,” Iger said in an interview.
“I kept seeing that brand and decided maybe we should buy it.” He told analysts he believed there was substantial pent-up demand for new Star Wars movies.