Disney buys George Lucas' Star Wars franchise in $4bn deal

George Lucas, pictured, will remain 'creative director' on Disney's new Star Wars films. Photo: Reuters

The Walt Disney Company has agreed to buy filmmaker George Lucas's Lucasfilm Ltd and the "Star Wars" franchise for $4.05 billion (£2.5 billion) in cash and stock, a blockbuster deal that adds one of the most beloved franchises in entertainment history to Disney's lineup.

Disney said there would be a new series of "Star Wars" feature films as part of the deal, with the first movie expected 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.

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.

"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.

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.