In an article that starts off looking at the possibility that Marvel’s Kevin Feige will be the new head of Disney Studios, replacing departed Rich Ross, Kevin Melrose distills more than 20 years of Marvel history, such as how they came to have their own studio and various hardball tactics by Ike Perlmutter.
Arad, chairman and CEO of Marvel Studios, was convinced the company should produce its own films, and in 2003 turned to Harvard MBA David Maisel, who came up with the idea to fund the venture by borrowing money against character rights. Marvel CEO Perlmutter quickly hired Maisel as the studio’s chief operating officer, and with that — and $525 million in financing — the company was finally in the movie-making business. But just as Lee was nudged aside years earlier, so too was Arad after he and Maisel locked horns over the frequency of film releases and the caliber of characters involved. Perlmutter sided with Maisel — “Ike was a supporter,” Maisel told Fortune, “not just of the deal, but of my role” — and in May 2006, Arad cashed out $59 million worth of stock and left the company.
For those just coming in, Marvel wasn’t always a studio powerhouse. As Melrose alludes to, a few years back they borrowed $525 million to start a movie studio, with the perpetual rights to the characters as collateral. So basically, if the Thor movie had tanked and the Cap movie had tanked, Merrill Lynch would have owned them forever. It’s hard to believe that this was once a seriously explored outcome. Marvel and Feige (and David Maisel before him) have done a model job profitably transitioning the characters to the screen, with next week’s AVENGERS the culmination of years of planning.
Yeah, it all seems to be going great. So when are they going to announce that Ant-Man movie already?