George Lucas: I Sold Lucasfilm To Disney To ‘Protect It’

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Though it’s obviously more of a show business story than it is a technology industry story, the news of Lucasfilm’s $4 billion sale to Disney has reverberated throughout the tech world this afternoon.

This is partly just because of Star Wars’ cult status among the geeks (and I use that term with all respect and love) who make the web go ’round. But also, Lucasfilm has straddled the worlds of tech and film in a unique way, with its headquarters in San Francisco instead of LA and its strong operations in tech- and engineering-heavy things such as visual effects, sound design, animation, and of course gaming.

To feed some of the curiosity surrounding the deal, StarWars.com just released a short video in which George Lucas and Lucasfilm’s co-chairman Kathleen Kennedy explain some of the logic behind the sale to Disney.

You can watch the whole thing embedded above, but from a business perspective, perhaps the most interesting thing is the level of optimism Lucas exhibits for how the company he has built over the past 35 years will live on inside of its new parent company:

“I felt that I really wanted to put the company somewhere in a larger entity which could protect it. Disney is a huge corporation. They have all kinds of capabilities and facilities, so that there’s a lot of strength that is gained by this.

…I’m doing this so that the films will have a longer life, and so that more fans and people can enjoy them in the future. It’s a very big universe I’ve created and there are a lot of stories that are sitting in there.”

Selling to a massive company such as Disney would be a worthy goal for many standalone businesses, but this is an especially interesting situation because George Lucas was Lucasfilm’s sole owner, controlling 100 percent of the company. That means that there was no investor pressure here for “an exit.” The decision to sell was completely his own.

Many people would say that selling to a gigantic publicly-traded corporation may not actually be the ideal way to “protect” something that you personally treasure — Disney ultimately answers to Wall Street, a very dispassionate bunch. While I’m sure the $4 billion helped sway his decision, it seems that right now Lucas really feels like this is the best course of action to preserve his brainchild for posterity.

Most relationships are entered into with a leap of faith, a lot of optimism, and a huge amount of trust, and mergers and acquisitions are no exception. But of course, history tells us that not all M&A deals have happy endings — in technology, entertainment and media, and beyond. Today, George Lucas is showing us an interesting snapshot of a feeling to which many businesspeople who have sold companies can relate — that honeymoon period of a deal.