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Walt Disney Co. (DIS-N) has agreed to buy filmmaker George Lucas's Lucasfilm Ltd. and the "Star Wars" franchise for $4.05 billion US in cash and stock, a blockbuster deal that includes the surprise promise of a new film in the series in 2015.
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, in prepared remarks for analysts, said the plan was to release a new movie in the series every two to three years thereafter. The last "Star Wars" picture was "Revenge of the Sith" in 2005, and Lucas has in past denied any plans for more.
Lucas, a Hollywood icon known for exercising control over the most minute details of the fictional universe he created, will remain as a creative consultant on the new films.
"It`s now time for me to pass 'Star Wars' on to a new generation of filmmakers," he said in a statement. Lucas will become the second-largest individual holder of Disney shares, with a 2.2 percent stake.
Disney will pay about half the purchase price in cash and issue about 40 million shares at closing.
Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo, in prepared remarks, said the deal would lower Disney's earnings per share by a low single-digits percentage in fiscal 2013 and 2014. He also said Disney would repurchase all of the issued shares on the open market within the next two years, on top of planned buybacks.
This deal marks the third time in less than seven years that Disney has signed a massive deal to take over a beloved studio or character portfolio, part of its strategy to acquire brands that can be stretched across TV, movies, theme parks and the Internet.
In early 2006, Disney struck a deal to acquire "Toy Story" creator Pixar, and in the summer of 2009 it bought the comic book powerhouse Marvel Entertainment.
"Because Lucas is private, I would assume most investors would be surprised (by the deal). My point of view is that Disney already has a great portfolio and this adds one more. They don't have any holes, but their past deals have been additive," said Morningstar analyst Michael Corty.
From a fan's perspective, critics said there was sure to be at least some excitement at the prospect of episode seven in the saga of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.
"Do I want to see more Star Wars movies? Not really, but they're not making these movies for me. There's a whole new generation of Star Wars fans, and they worship the prequels like folks my age worshipped the original trilogy," the film writer "Mr. Beaks" said on the well-regarded industry site Ain't It Cool News.
Besides "Star Wars," the Lucasfilm deal also includes rights to the "Indiana Jones" franchise, though Disney did not elaborate on any plans for that series.