Disney to acquire Marvel for $4 billion

Publisher of Spider-Man, Hulk, X-Men comics agrees to buyout offer from multimedia giant behind Mickey Mouse, ABC, Miramax, and more.

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The Magic Kingdom will soon see an influx of immigrants, as The Walt Disney Company today announced an agreement with Marvel Entertainment to acquire the comic publisher and its stable of over 5,000 characters. The deal is valued at $4 billion in cash and Disney stock.

Disney's new cast of characters.
Disney's new cast of characters.

Both companies are established players in the gaming world. Disney Interactive Studios has been publishing game adaptations for Disney films like G-Force and Hannah Montana: The Movie and is also branching out into original properties like the upcoming racer Split/Second.

Marvel doesn't publish games itself, but it frequently licenses out its characters to a wide variety of publishers. Currently, the comics company is providing characters for new and upcoming titles from Activision (Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2), Capcom (Marvel vs. Capcom 2), Sega (Iron Man 2), and THQ (Marvel Super Hero Squad).

In a conference call with analysts today, Disney executives fielded questions about their plans for the acquisition. And while they mentioned the need to respect deals that were already in place, there were hints that Disney might look to replace Marvel's licensing partners in the future, where appropriate.

"On the video games front, [Marvel has] some what we see as smart licensing agreements with some of the best video game manufacturers in the business," Disney president and CEO Bob Iger said. "And while we have been steadily moving in a vertically integrated direction, we don't rule out the possibility of a blend of licensed games, as well as self-produced and self-distributed. And what is nice about this is that as some of these deals near expiration, we have the luxury of at that time considering what is best for the company both from a financial perspective, from a quality perspective, and an exposure perspective."

Both companies' boards of directors have signed off on the acquisition. However, it still must be approved by Marvel shareholders and government regulators.

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