New Year’s Eve 2009 saw the House of Ideas become the House of Mouse as Marvel’s stockholders approved the $4.3 billion purchase of Marvel Entertainment by Disney. Under terms of the agreement, Marvel shareholders received a total of $30 a share in cash plus approximately 0.7452 Disney shares for each Marvel share they owned. Marvel’s assets, which include a library of more than 5,000 characters in a variety of media including licensing, movie production, and publishing, will be available to various Disney divisions.
The deal, first announced on August 31, rocked both the world of comics and Hollywood, as Disney acquired Marvel’s blue-chip library of intellectual property icons including Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Wolverine, and a boy-branded slate of characters that gives Disney’s established princesses a heroic date for the licensing prom. Marvel cartoons are already a staple of Disney’s boy-themed Disney XD channel.
In a statement announcing the deal, Disney’s president and CEO Robert Iger stated, “We’re thrilled to welcome to the Disney family the talented team at Marvel. We believe the creative and business potential of this combination is substantial and can help us grow both our top and bottom line, leading to a significant increase in long-term shareholder value.”
Although speculation over how Disney’s marketing juggernaut will take advantage of Marvel’s popular characters has been a hot topic since the deal was announced, both sides have remained completely mum about details of how the companies will interact. Most observers hope that Disney will treat Marvel as it has Pixar—an independent company that retains the style that made it successful in the first place.
While many of Marvel’s crown jewel characters are not available for Disney’s film division—Sony holds a virtual license in perpetuity for Spider-Man, for instance, and Fox has the rights to make spinoffs of the famed X-Men franchise—the deal unites the first and fourth biggest licensing brands, and Disney is likely to take advantage of Marvel’s characters in its immensely successful licensed publishing division.
With parallel changes taking place at Marvel’s biggest superhero rival, DC, which is set to announce a new publisher within the month and has rebranded itself as DC Entertainment, 2010 is certain to be a year of change for both companies, and the superhero publishing landscape will likely have a very different look in a year’s time.