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Marvel Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: MVL) is an American entertainment company formed from the merger of Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. and Toy Biz, Inc.
A corporate predecessor traces its origins to the May 1933 publication of Western Supernovel Magazine. That magazine was only published for one issue before the title was changed to Complete Western Book Magazine in July 1933.
The company's oldest character is Ka-Zar introduced in 1936. In 1939, the company began publishing comic books as Timely Publications with Marvel Comics #1.
Ronald Perelman's MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings group of companies bought the Marvel Entertainment Group, the parent company of Marvel Comics, from New World Entertainment for $82.5 million.
"It is a mini-Disney in terms of intellectual property," said Perelman. "Disney's got much more highly recognized characters and softer characters, whereas our characters are termed action heroes. But at Marvel we are now in the business of the creation and marketing of characters."
Boosted by a massive merchandising effort, an increase in Marvel comic prices, and an overall boom in the comic book industry, Marvel's profits spiked. Perelman later added the baseball card and basketball card companies Fleer Corporation and SkyBox International, Italian sticker manufacturer Panini Group, and comic book publishers Welsh Publishing and Malibu Comics to Marvel's holdings for a combined total of $700 million. Investors around the world recognized his efforts and generated $80 million for Perelman when he issued Marvel's initial public offering. He later added a significant stake in Toy Biz to Marvel's holdings. His luck was not to last. Marvel's attempt to distribute its products directly led to a decrease in sales and aggravated the losses which Marvel suffered when the comic book bubble popped, the 1994 Major League Baseball strike massacred the profits of the Fleer division, and Panini was hobbled by poor showings at the box office by Disney (Licensing Disney characters provided a major source of revenue for Panini, so when the movies performed poorly Panini performed poorly).
A major bondholder, Carl Icahn, fought to take control of the company from Perelman. Both men failed as Toy Biz owners Ike Perlmutter and Avi Arad snatched Marvel from Perelman and Icahn in order to protect their own financial interests. Estimates of his profit on the deal vary widely. Chuck Rozanski estimates that Perelman made $200-400 million off Marvel; Forbes thinks he made nothing; and the judge in the Marvel bankruptcy trial estimated he made $280 million plus various tax advantages. In December 2003, Marvel Entertainment acquired Cover Concepts from Hearst Communications, Inc.
On March 15, 2007, Stan Lee Media filed a lawsuit against Marvel Entertainment for $5 billion, claiming that the company is co-owner of the characters that Lee created for Marvel. Additionally, a lawsuit over the Ghost Rider character ownership was filed on March 30, 2007 by Gary Friedrich and Gary Friedrich Enterprises, Inc.
In December 2009, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment.
The company's operating units include:
- Marvel Characters, Inc.: intellectual property holding company;
- Marvel Publishing, Inc.: publisher of Marvel Comics;
- Marvel Studios: a film and television production company;
- Marvel Toys (formerly Toy Biz): a toy company owned by Isaac Perlmutter since the 1990s.
- Spider-Man Merchandising, L.P.: A joint venture of Marvel and Sony Pictures Consumer Products Inc. that owns the rights to Spider-Man movie related licensed products.
- MVL Film Finance LLC: holder of Marvel's Movie debt and theatrical film rights to the ten characters as collateral.
- Marvel Animation: Subsidiary charge with oversight of Marvel's animation productions.
- Marvel Characters B.V. (The Netherlands)
- MVL International C.V. (The Netherlands)
- Marvel International Character Holdings LLC (Delaware)
- Marvel Entertainment International Limited (United Kingdom)
- Marvel Property, Inc. (Delaware)
- Marvel Internet Productions LLC (Delaware)
- Marvel Toys Limited (Hong Kong)
- MRV, Inc. (Delaware)
- MVL Development LLC (Delaware)
- Marvel Film Productions LLC (Delaware)
- Film Slate Subsidiaries
- MVL Rights, LLC: subsidiary holding movie rights of all Marvel Characters with some on contract with MVL Film Finance
- Iron Works Productions LLC: subsidiary holding debt to finance the Iron Man movie.
- MVL Productions LLC: an indirect wholly owned a film development subsidiary
- Incredible Productions LLC (Delaware): subsidiary holding debt to finance the Incredible Hulk film
- MVL Iron Works Productions Canada, Inc. (Province of Ontario)
- MVL Incredible Productions Canada, Inc. (Province of Ontario)
- Asgard Productions LLC (Delaware)
- Green Guy Toons LLC (Delaware)
- Squad Productions LLC (Delaware)
- Fleer Corporation
- Malibu Comics
- Marvel Productions (1981 to 1997)
- Panini Group: Italian sticker manufacturer
- SkyBox International
- Welsh Publishing: comic book publishers
- Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
- Toy Biz, Inc.
- Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc.