Mickey Mouse is about to make some 5,000 new friends, many of them clad in capes.
The Walt Disney Company announced today that it will buy comic book giant Marvel in a cash and stock deal valued at $4 billion.
The deal will give Disney ownership of more than 5,000 Marvel comic book characters, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men, Captain America and the Fantastic Four. Disney is the parent company of ABC News.
"I'm incredibly excited by the acquisition," Disney President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger said in conference call with analysts this morning. "It presents Disney a unique opportunity to strengthen its strategic position as a leading global provider of high-quality branded content. It also represents a meaningful growth opportunity across Disney's many complementary businesses and we believe Marvel can help us build significant long-term shareholder value."
Wall Street, however, was less excited about the deal. Disney stock was down nearly 3 percent to about $26 by the late morning.
Disney hopes to complete the purchase by the end of the year.The boards of both companies have approved the deal, but it still requires clearance from the government under antitrust law and the approval from Marvel shareholders. Under the Disney purchase, Marvel shareholders would receive $30 per share in cash and approximately 0.745 Disney shares for each Marvel share they own.
Both Disney executives and analysts have drawn comparisons between the Marvel deal and Disney's $7.4 billion purchase of Pixar Animation Studios in 2006. Iger said cooperation between Marvel and Pixar executives could result in "some exciting product," but he stopped short of saying they would create co-branded Marvel and Pixar products.
Disney said it will use its various platforms to promote Marvel characters, including its boys-themed channel Disney XD, which already runs Marvel programming, and its amusement parks.
Marvel has shown "tremendous skill at increasing the commercial appeal of characters like Iron Man that traditionally weren't well known outside Marvel's core fan community, and we believe there's significant opportunity to further mine Marvel's rich intellectual property," Iger said.
Marvel Chief Executive Officer Ike Perlmutter will oversee Marvel business at Disney.
"We believe in the creative team at Marvel and don't see any reason to upset that apple cart," Disney Chief Financial Officer Tom Staggs said.
Perlmutter called Disney "the perfect home" for Marvel's characters in a statement released this morning.
"This is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney's tremendous global organization and infrastructure around the world," he said.