Disney to Acquire Pixar for $7.4 Bln

The Walt Disney Company and Pixar announced today that Disney has agreed to acquire animation house Pixar for an all stock deal valued at $7.4 billion. The deal has been approved by the boards of both companies, and is expected to be completed by mid-2006.

Pixar President Ed Catnull will serve as the President of the new Pixar and Disney animation studios, and John Lassetter (considered by many to be the crown jewel of Pixar) will serve as Chief Creative Officer of the studios, as well as Principal Creative Advisor at Walt Disney Imagineering, where he’ll contribute to Disney theme park attractions. And what of Pixar’s iconic CEO Steve Jobs, also CEO of Apple Computer and in control of about half Pixar’s stock? He’ll be joining Disney’s Board of Directors as one of three non-independent members.

“Disney and Pixar can now collaborate without the barriers that come from two different companies with two different sets of shareholders,” said Jobs. “Now, everyone can focus on what is most important, creating innovative stories, characters and films that delight millions of people around the world.”

Pixar has developed several successful animated films which have been distributed by Disney, including Toy Story,Toy Story 2,A Bug’s Life,Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles, with total earnings estimated near $3.2 billion. However, friction between Jobs and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner led Jobs to walk away from the Disney distribution deal when it concludes this year with the release of Cars.

The Disney acquisition secures Pixar’s talent and unique culture, bringing them into the Disney fold, and enables the House of Mouse to further leverage Pixar characters, stories, and creations through its many media and merchandising channels. For many Pixar employees, the deal may represent a bit of a dream come true: many of the storytelling and production values of earlier Disney animated films are what inspired Pixar in the first place. However, the deal does cast doubt on Disney’s confidence in its own in-house talent, and may complicate life for Steve Jobs’ other day job at Apple Computer, where, as a member of Disney’s board, he may face additional hurdles trying to convince other video content providers (Time Warner, NBC/Universal, CBS, etc.) to put their content up for sale on Apple’s iTunes Music Store.