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Bad News for Star Wars, Snow White Porn Parodies: Disney Buys Lucasfilm for $4B

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LOS ANGELES — from www.nytimes.com – The Walt Disney Company, in a move that gives it a commanding position in the realm of fantasy movies, said Tuesday it had agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. from its founder, George Lucas, for $4.05 billion in stock and cash.

The sale provides a corporate home for a private company that grew from Mr. Lucas’s hugely successful “Star Wars” series, and became an enduring force in creating effects-driven science fiction entertainment for large and small screens. Mr. Lucas, who is 68 years old, had already announced he would step down from day-to-day operation of the company.

In a hastily convened conference call with investors Tuesday afternoon, Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, said the company plans to release a seventh “Star Wars” feature film in 2015, with new films in the series coming every two or three years after that. Mr. Lucas will be a consultant on the film projects, Mr. Iger said.

Combined with the purchase of Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion in 2009 and of Pixar Animation Studios for $7.4 billion in 2006, the acquisition will help secure the legacy of Mr. Iger as a builder who aggressively expanded the company since taking charge in 2005. Mr. Iger is set to step down as chief executive in March of 2015, but will remain with Disney in a lesser role under an employment deal he reached with Disney last year.

“Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas,” Mr. Iger said in a statement.

Jay Rasulo, the company’s chief financial officer, said Disney’s financial calculations in agreeing to the purchase Lucasfilm were driven almost entirely by the potential of the “Star Wars” series, which already has a place in the Disney theme parks. Mr. Rasulo said Lucasfilm’s licensing revenue comes mostly from toys and heavily from North America. Disney, he said, is positioned to extend the licensing business to other products and to strengthen it internationally.

Mr. Rasulo said Disney expects within two years to repurchase the shares it is issuing to fund the purchase. Lucasfilms, he said, should begin boosting Disney’s earnings by 2015.

The companies said Disney would pay approximately half of the purchase price in cash, and would issue about 40 million shares to cover the balance when the deal closes.

With the acquisition, Disney will acquire Lucasfilm’s live action production business, along with its Industrial Light & Magic effects business, its Skywalker Sound audio operation and its consumer products unit, among other things.

In a statement, Disney said it was particularly pleased to acquire the filmmaking technology that comes with Mr. Lucas’s company, and expects “sustained growth” from “Star Wars” and other Lucas properties as they are joined with Disney’s parks and existing entertainment and licensing businesses.

“It’s now time for me to pass ‘Star Wars’ to on to a new generation of filmmakers,” Mr. Lucas said in a statement.

Kathleen Kennedy, a long-time associate of Steven Spielberg who recently agreed to become co-chairman of LucasFilm, will now be its president, reporting to Alan F. Horn, the chairman of Disney’s movie studio.

Lucasfilm is based in San Francisco, and now, in combination with Pixar — which operates from across the San Francisco Bay in Emeryville — it gives Disney, which is based in Burbank, a major presence in Northern California.

Among its operations, Lucasfilm owns Lucasfilm Singapore, a digital animation company, and Lucas Online, which creates Web content.

Along with “Star Wars” and its many iterations on movie screens, in television programming, in video games and elsewhere, Mr. Lucas has been a partner in the “Indiana Jones” series, and, occasionally, in an unrelated film, like “Willow.” After the release of the first “Star Wars” film in 1977, Mr. Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic took the lead in developing effects technologies that were used in a generation of science fiction and fantasy films. Eventually, other companies, including Weta Digital, a New Zealand company co-owned by Peter Jackson, challenged its primacy, but never really supplanted it.

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