Early Notes and Observations about the Disney-Marvel deal

Posted by Marty Brochstein on August 31, 2009

Notes and observations about the deal announced this morning through which Disney agrees to acquire Marvel for cash and stock totaling about $4 billion…

For those who haven’t seen it, the official release is at
http://corporate.disney.go.com/news/corporate/2009/2009_0831_DISNEY_AND_MARVEL_ENTERTAINMENT.html

Having listened in on the joint conference call for financial analysts this morning, I’ll leave it to others for the lengthy big-picture exposition of the deal. Obviously, it gives Disney a major entrée into the boys property segment that it’s had so much trouble deciphering. If there’s anything Marvel knows, it’s boys.

*A major question going forward for the consumer products community is how much of the Disney template will be applied to the Marvel business model. One of the first emails I got about the deal early this morning was speculation about the fate of those in the Marvel Consumer Products operation. The short answer is that’s too soon to tell. Disney President-CEO Bob Iger made repeated reference to the fact that Disney is acquiring the people of Marvel, and their feel for developing the characters and story lines in a creative and business sense, as much as they’re acquiring the character library.

On the other hand, Disney CFO Tom Staggs noted  that there are several markets around the world in which Disney has its own offices and direct retail and licensee relationships, where Marvel doesn’t. Sounds from that as though it’s not good news for Marvel agents.

*One of the more amusing notes to anyone who’s familiar with Marvel’s “lean and mean” organization: One financial analyst prefaced his question about cost savings through efficiencies and eliminating redundancies by saying that “I realize there’s probably not a lot of cost to be taken out of the Marvel model….” Stagg said during the call that the deal was ‘not principally driven by costs saving and redundancies,” though adding that Disney will look for those situations.

*A couple of oddities in the staging of the call: While Marvel CEO and chief shareholder Ike Perlmutter was the only Marvel official quoted in the press release, he wasn’t on the conference call. Marvel was represented by Chairman Mort Handel. Who made a brief prepared statement at the beginning and, to our ears, was never heard from again. All questions were directed to and fielded by Iger and Staggs. Both of them made at times declined to speak about Marvel’s existing agreements and plans, but nobody from Marvel did either.

*Stagg said that the genesis of the deal came “a few months ago” when Iger “reached out to and met with Perlmutter to get to know each other better.  That initial contact grew into the realization that a deal would make sense.
It will be interesting to see how the deal develops and, assuming it goes through, how Disney navigates the vastly different corporate cultures and creative sensibilities of the two companies, while encouraging and maximizing the obvious synergies they bring to the table