The Story Behind The Disney and Marvel Deal
I love the insider industry stories of how big deals like the most recent Disney and Marvel deal went down. One of my favorite books about the way things work behind the scenes in the entertainment industry is called, The Keys to the Kingdom: How Michael Eisner Lost his Grip, and it takes you through the detailed entertaining drama of how Disney was run during the 1990's. It is actually during this time that the Disney Marvel idea began.
The current Disney CEO Bob Iger is no stranger to Marvel Comics, his great uncle Jerry Iger was was actually a illustrator/cartoonist who during the 1930's teamed up with Will Eisner to start up Eisner & Iger Studios. The first person they hired at the comic studio was Jack Kirby who eventually helped create some of Marvel Comics best characters. So there is a strong connection of family history involved, which is why Bob Iger feels the way he does about buying Marvel and their 7,000 Marvel characters.
During the 90's Michael Eisner was the guy running Disney, and Bob Iger was his number two. It was at this time about 10 years ago that discussions about acquiring Marvel began. Nothing ever happened back then because, well, Eisner didn't see the characters as a Disney brand. It wasn't until after Bob Iger took over the CEO position at Disney that he was able to start moving on it. Apparently Disney found itself sitting on some extra cash, even after investing in Pixar, and a few other things. It was at this time that they started looking for more growth opportunities. Hey Marvel's still available! When they started seriously talking about it there were only about a dozen people that knew that they were going to go for Marvel, and no one said a damn thing. Nothing leaked out, which just seems crazy in a world were everything leaks out!
Back in June Iger went to New York to meet with Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter. Iger had already let Perlmutter know Disney was interested in buying Marvel, and this meeting would be the start of the Disney/Marvel negotiations. Iger explained:
It would have been manipulative if I'd approached it any other way. You know how that goes. Someone invites you for dinner. And, after a glass of wine, he tells you he wants to buy you. And the wine never tastes quite as good after that.
Perlmutter wasn't too interested at first, sure he liked Disney, but Marvel wasn't hurting for money, they were doing fine, and there was no reason for them to sell. He didn't want to sell. As Iger probed Perlmutter with more questions he found what his real concern was. He didn't want to retire, He wanted to continue to work because Marvel was what he loved. Which is kind of a lie and you'll find out later as you keep reading.
Since Marvel didn't need to sell out, and they weren't under any financial pressure the price that Disney was willing to offer had to be right. Negotiations went on from June until this last Sunday night when the deal was done. Perlmutter owns 37% of Marvel and after the $4 million dollar buy he stands to make $1.5 billion bucks. According to insiders this sell-out has been Perlmutter's strategy all along.
This was always an acquisition play for Ike. This deal with Disney just ups his game and creates shareholder value and lets him walk away a billionaire.
Turned out, in the end it was all about the money, not his love for Marvel. Regarding the Marvel characters and content Perlmutter and Iger agreed in New york very late Sunday night when the deal was made, that Marvel would continue to operate independently, and not be a part of the micro-managing that Disney has become notorious for. They will be able to work the same way Pixar and Miramax have been.
It sounds exactly like what happened in the TV show Mad Men when Sterling Cooper was bought out. I love these behind the scenes stories that happen everyday in the entertainment industry, and this was a big one. I'm sure there are a ton of details that we are missing but this is basically how the Marvel/Disney deal went down.
After hearing all the details that have been released since the deal was made, I'm not to worried about the future of Marvels properties. I think they are still going to be able to do what they want, but with bigger budgets, and better marketing. What do you think?
I have to ask, what superhero do you think Miley Cirus will want to play?