Disney boss hints he covets owning Bond

Walt Disney Co. logo

Robert Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Co., suggested he wouldn’t mind owning the James Bond franchise.

Iger was named “Businessperson of the Year” by Time magazine, an offshoot of its “Person of the Year” issue. At the very end of the article, there was this passage:

But for now, for just this moment, Iger is unassailable. He’s transformed his company from a stuffy media doyen into a sexy cultural force. He can glide to retirement in 2021 on the fumes of that triumph. Except it’s not his style. When asked which IP he would buy if in some fantasy world he could: Harry Potter, Gandalf or James Bond, Iger smiles. “We’re not looking to buy anything right now,” he says. “But I’ve always been a huge James Bond fan.”

The thing is, Disney has a piece of Bond, at least through mid-2020.

Disney paid more than $71 billion for most of the assets of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox studio. That included Fox’s home video operation, the current distributor for Bond films.

Under Iger, Disney has also acquired Marvel and its movie-making operation as well as Lucasfilm Ltd., the maker of Star Wars movies.

Some James Bond fans would rather slit their wrists rather than see Disney get more involved with Bond. Currently, the Bond franchise is controlled by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, one of the weakest Hollywood studios, and the Broccoli-Wilson family-controlled Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions).

MGM has been rebuilding since a 2010 bankruptcy. Financial issues at MGM have affected how often Bond films have been released.

007 questions: Media consolidation edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Walt Disney Co. is buying the 20th Century Fox studio and most assets of 21st Century Fox. It’s a new media world.

So, here are a few questions from a 007 perspective.

What happens to MGM? Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio is a runt among Hollywood studios. Disney agreeing to buy most of 21st Century Fox is the most prominent example yet of companies seeking to get even bigger in the digital age.

So what does MGM do? According to The Wall Street Journal in a February story, it spent much of 2016 trying to sell to a Chinese buyer. No sale.

MGM and Annapurna Pictures, a Hollywood newcomer, said Oct. 31 they were forming a new joint venture to release each other’s movies. Supposedly, the joint venture had the inside track to release Bond 25 in the United States. But that hasn’t been confirmed.

What happens to 007 home video distribution? Fox has an agreement to distribute James Bond films on home video through June 2020. But accords can change when the ownership of the one of the partners changes. Who knows at this point?

Does somebody make a play to control the entire 007 film franchise? When Disney acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm Ltd. (Star Wars), the bill was in the billions of dollars for each.

But Disney’s deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox is valued at $52.4 billion. That dwarfs the other deals Disney has negotiated under CEO Robert Iger, 66. Iger has agreed to stick around through 2021 to integrate the Fox assets into Disney.

When companies are throwing around that kind of money, anything is possible.

At the same time, Bond is a complicated animal. Control is divided between Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions) and MGM. It’s not just opening the checkbook. Taking control of Bond means, probably, separate sets of negotiations.

Still, Bond is one of the last remaining properties not totally under control of a major studio. Will this week’s events prompt somebody to try seizing control of “the gentleman agent with a license to kill”?