The Walt Disney Company currently has a market cap of $165 billion. A large bulk of that has been built on the strategic acquisitions of hit content and properties of the last 25 years. Walt Disney started his company in 1923 as a small time cartoon animator and grew it into an animated, live-action, television, and theme park behemoth before his death. Although it has been rocky at times following his leadership and death, from 1990-present, the company has had tremendous growth and expansion. In this time, the Walt Disney Company has acquired numerous studios, digital media, and internet pieces to strengthen the companies stock. The following is a list of 12 acquisitions valued at $114.265 billion. These companies have all played a massive role in the 21st century growth of the company and more importantly in my heart, the growth of Walt Disney World in Florida.
Miramax Films – 1993
In 1993, the Walt Disney Company acquired Miramax films for $60 million. This was Disney’s play to jump into the independent film market. They picked Miramax for their extensive film library and the confidence they had in Bob and Harvey Weinstein (that didn’t age well). They ultimately split ways in 2005 before the Walt Disney Company sold Miramax for $663 million. Not a bad ROI for a small film studio.
Capital Cities/ABC Inc. – 1996
The Walt Disney Company got more than ABC when they purchased them for $19 billion in 1996. They also got their next CEO. Bob Iger started with ABC in 1974 as a general labor assistant and worked his way up to President/COO of Capital Cities/ABC by 1994. He would stay in that position until 1999 when he joined the parent company, The Walt Disney Company. This is the most valuable asset Disney got when they bought ABC as Iger proved to be extremely forward thinking in regards to the acquisition of media to bolster the theme parks.
Starwave – 1998
This was part one of a $2 billion flop when Disney tried to get into the internet search game. In February of 1997 Disney bought an $80 million stake at a $300 million evaluation. A year and a half later, they bought the rest of the company for an additional $320 million. Starwave operated websites for multiple properties and was started by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
Infoseek – 1999
Infoseek is part two of Disney’s internet flop. As part of their intitial $70 million investment for 43% of the company, they also agreed to lend Infoseek $139 million over 5 years. As part of this deal, Infoseek absorbed Starwave into its portfolio and agreed to buy $165 million of advertising from Disney. A year later, Disney acquired the remaining 57% of the company for $1.7 billion. They then merged Infoseek and their Starwave website properties into go.com, their play at a rival to Yahoo.
Fox Family Worldwide – 2001
Moving into the new millennium Disney had to make a move into the growing family TV market. Syndicating beloved 1980s and 1990s television programming was becoming big business as cable continued to grow into more households. After a failed attempt at buying the IFE network in 1997, Disney paid $2.9 billion for the same network that was now owned by News Corp. News Corp. bought IFE for $1.9 billion in 1997 and then turned it for a $1 billion profit 4 years later after renaming it Fox Family Worldwide.
The Muppets – 2004
The first of many huge intellectual property acquisitions by Disney in the 2000s was the Muppets in 2004. Disney paid Jim Henson $75 million for the rights to his characters under the Muppets name and the trademark of the Muppets name. This did not include his properties under Sesame Street or a few movies he had used them in, but it paved the way for their use in Disney parks.
Pixar – 2006
This was Bob Iger’s first of many massive acquisitions in the 2000s. After Eisner left as CEO, the Disney/Pixar relationship was in shambles and set to expire. Enter Iger and Jobs talking shop and sharing a creative vision for the future. It did not take long for Iger to woo Jobs enough to purchase Pixar, all of their properties, and their technology for a massive $7.4 billion in 2006. This ensured that Toy Story, Monsters Inc, Cars, The Incredibles, and many more properties to stay under the Disney banner.
Marvel – 2009
Do you know how much money it takes to make $22.58 billion at the box office? A $4 billion acquisition of Marvel and all of its properties. This acquisition by Disney paved the way to the Infinity War Saga at the box office. Arguably the largest and most successful movie franchise in history, Marvel was one of the best acquisitions by Disney. It is also paving the way for Disney to add superhero properties in the parks. Like the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster at Epcot.
Lucasfilm – 2012
Want to know whats better than one multi-billion dollar movie franchise? Two multi-billion dollar film franchises. In 2012 Disney purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion, opening the door to another Star Wars trilogy, multiple spin off movies, new TV series, and a massive addition to their Florida and California theme parks. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a themed land located at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. In these parks you will be fully immersed within the Star Wars galaxy, and can even escape from Kylo Ren himself on Rise of the Resistance. If you haven’t had the chance to visit yet, do it as soon as possible.
Maker Studios – 2015
It wouldn’t be a complete list of the 2000s if it didn’t include close to a $1 billion investment into YouTube. Disney purchased Maker Studios for $500 million up front, and an $450 million if certain goals are met. Maker Studios manages over 55k YouTube channels with a massive 350 million person subscriber list. This acquisition is more of a long term play for Disney as more consumers cut cable and look for free entertainment.
BAMTech – 2017
BAMTech originally started as a spinoff of the MLB Advanced Media division to provide internet content for the MLB. They then expanded to the NHL, HBO NOW, the PGA Tour, the WWE Network and tennis. Disney purchased a minority stake in 2016 for $1 billion and an additional stake for $1.58 billion to control 75% of the company. This $2.58 billion investment was instrumental in getting their Disney+ streaming services off the ground.
21st Century Fox – 2019
The most recent and largest acquisition was a $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox by Disney. This allowed them to reintegrate some of their Marvel characters into the Disney brand, 20th Century Fox film and television studios, FX Networks, National Geographic, another 30% stake in Hulu, a minority stake in DraftKings, and many other film and tv properties. This was met with harsh criticism and court battles over antitrust concerns. Eventually Disney prevailed and the acquisition was completed in 2019.
Does this seem like a lot of money that all started with a mouse? We definitely think so! But we wouldn’t know and love the Disney today without all of these huge investments. If you want to debate the acquisitions or guess which companies will be next, hit the comment area below. We’d love to hear from you. While you’re at it, feel free to check out the rest of our content!