Disney acquires Pixar studio

WALT Disney Co., the No. 2 US media company, completed its $8.06 billion purchase of Pixar, bolstering its animation unit by gaining the creators of Toy Story and next month’s Cars. Pixar chief executive officer Steven Jobs, 51, becomes Disney’s largest shareholder and gets a board seat. President Ed Catmull will be president of the new Pixar and of Disney animation studios, and John Lasseter was named creative chief for animation, California-based Disney said in a statement. The purchase brings Disney chief executive officer Robert Iger the studio that created five of the 10 top-grossing animated films of all time, including No. 2 Finding Nemo. Pixar is Disney’s biggest acquisition in more than a decade and helps revive Disney’s once-vaunted animation division. “Pixar did what Disney used to do — tell great stories with dazzling animation,’’ said Brandon Gray, president of Burbank, California-based film tracker BoxOfficeMojo.com. “Disney has struggled in animation and hasn’t been able to capture what Pixar does.’’

Before Iger, 55, and Jobs agreed to the deal in January, Disney distributed films from Emeryville, California-based Pixar, which also created Toy Story and The Incredibles. “We will still be Pixar films,” Catmull told investors at a meeting in San Francisco where Pixar shareholders approved the deal. “It works. You don’t break what works.” Gains in Disney shares lifted the value of the stock transaction to $8.06 billion, from $7.4 billion when it was announced. Disney’s stock price hit a 52-week high of $29.15 during the day’s trading. Pixar shares rose $2.41, or 3.7%, to a 52-week high of $67.69 in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading, and are up 28% this year. Catmull assured investors that Pixar’s culture will be preserved, reiterating comments from Iger and from Jobs when the deal was announced in January, and again in a regulatory filing that outlined safeguards of the company’s culture. Being independent helped Pixar “create the computer-animation genre,” BoxOfficeMojo’s Gray said. 

A change in management at Disney also brought the two companies closer together after Jobs and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner clashed. Pixar management was “incredibly impressed” with Iger’s vision, Catmull said. Iger was a “major factor” in deciding to move forward with the sale, he said. Catmull will report to Iger and Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook. Lasseter, who was executive vice president at Pixar, will also be principal creative adviser at Walt Disney Imagineering, helping to design theme park attractions. Iger said in February that he decided to buy Pixar after concluding that Disney’s animation unit, home to Mickey Mouse, Snow White and Cinderella, hadn’t created any recognisable animated characters in the past decade.

According to an April 3 regulatory filing, Pixar shareholders get about a 12.6% stake in Disney.

Jobs owned almost 50% of Pixar, which translates to about 6.3% of Disney’s shares. Disney’s largest purchase was Capital Cities/ABC Inc. for $19 billion in 1996. Shrek 2, is the top-grossing animated film of all time.


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