USC Disney Strong Affinity and Culture for Acquisitions Discussion

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The great dreamer Walt Disney himself couldn’t have dreamt of the corporate fairy tale that his company has become in the past forty years. The Walt Disney Company or just “Disney” is a company worthy of multiple books to discuss the amount of continued excellence that it has taken to get them to where they are today. The factor of Disney that is most worthy of study in this modern era of media is its ability to consolidate and merge with other companies to become the largest media company in the world. Today, as mass media consolidates further and further into three to five major conglomerates, Disney’s strong culture and affinity for acquisitions has put them at the top of their industry.

Disney’s competitors could not have seen the wave of movie power that Disney would be able to churn out due to a handful of what were at the time pricey purchase. When Disney purchased Marvel for $4 million and Lucasfilm for $4 billion, their competition could never have known that the fruits of these acquisitions would be so sweet. With movies from each of these purchases making well over $100 million within the first few weeks of release, Disney could not have imagined such great returns.

Year after year Disney movies dominate the box office and networks owned by Disney dominate the small screens. With huge growth in their theme park business and both Marvel and Lucasfilm in their stable, Disney looks to remain a powerhouse for the long haul. The thing that has gotten them here is their ability to use their unique future-oriented culture to absorb outside cultures as they acquire their competition. While they have gotten bigger and bigger so too has their competition with NBC Universal and Warner Media both owned by Comcast and AT&T respectively. And even with the rise of Netflix and other streaming platforms, Disney has consistently bought companies that could soon give them an edge in the streaming space where they plan to release a platform hosting all of their content companywide. Their ability to think ahead and buy into the future is going to remain a vital component to their success as we see further consolidation in the mass-media sector.

One of the most substantial acquisitions of the Disney story was Pixar in 2006, a move by both companies that has been seen as the gold standard in acquisition synergy. At the time Pixar was a big player in the animation realm with mega-hits like Toy Story and Finding Nemo. However, their vision for the entertainment industry always coincided with their intent to remain a fiscally solvent business due to their high operating costs, long turnover time, and limited release schedule. This meant that while they were making fantastic movies, they were having trouble balancing art with business and innovation. For this reason, Disney as a company with many streams of income and a very similar industry vision was the perfect fit to acquire Pixar.

While Pixar was one of Disney’s easiest acquisitions, they have been able to make dozens more like this that keep them competing in every corner of media. With organizations like 21st Century Fox, Marvel, Fox Family Worldwide, and ABC all under the arm of the Walt Disney Company, they have consistently managed to facilitate a culture that consistently cohabitates and assimilates other organizations into their own. Even now, as smaller companies are being bought up by the largest players, Disney is willing to pay top dollar for a company with solid structure that is compatible to its goals and values.

Disney, one of the most recognizable brands in the world, has managed to maintain the same association with the brand that they have had since the visionary founder was still in charge. They have maintained the magical side of their brand while incorporating dozens of other companies into their everyday operations. There have been very few hiccups along the way, with a workforce more loyal to their brand name than any in the industry. This culture also permeates into the way that they handle their business regarding acquisitions. They have never made themselves the cutthroat negotiators often seen in the business from top studio heads but instead tend to pay more than what an asset is worth as long as it is an asset trending upward.

When they purchased the rights to make Marvel movies, they were entering a space that had never been successful, meaning that many said that they overpaid at $4 million. The same is also true for the rights to Star Wars, both thought to be extravagant purchases despite being so far apart. Disney knew what they were getting into and had no fear paying more than what they could have gotten each entity for and the results speak for themselves. Disney’s ability to absorb companies into their own culture has allowed them to build themselves from a small-scale cartoon movie studio into the purveyor of high-quality media content that they are today. Due to their “all in” negotiation strategy of investing in the best content, they have made themselves the first choice of any studio looking for partners.

Discussion Questions

  1. Discuss how Disney’s negotiation tactics differ from most in their industry.
  2. Discuss briefly the characteristic that has led Disney to its current size.

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