July 19, 2004
Marvel Enterprises (NYSE: MVL ) is having a nice little summer for itself now that Spider-Man 2 has firmly proved to be a box-office supernova; Sony (NYSE: SNE ) is pretty happy, too. But, as Peter Parker himself found out, for every good thing, there must be a balancing event in the opposite direction. Perhaps the thorn in Marvel's side is the lawsuit it just filed against Disney (NYSE: DIS ) .
Disney acquired the Fox Family cable station from NewsCorp (NYSE: NWS ) a few years back (it is now called ABC Family) for more than $5 billion. With that purchase came several deals already in place, including the subject of Marvel's contention: The cartoons based on such intellectual properties as Spider-Man and X-Men run on the network, and certain royalty arrangements are expected to be met. It is Marvel's opinion that those obligations have not been satisfied, and the company accuses Disney of not keeping competent records.
Lawsuits are a way of life on Wall Street; I recently wrote about one involving McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) . Disney receives a lot of them, and Marvel certainly has no problem getting involved. The company has to; protecting the cash flow its characters generate from forces that might want to skim a little off the top is its prime directive and its ultimate promise to all the little-guy shareholders who are pumping portions of their hard-earned paychecks into the concern (sounds a bit superheroic, doesn't it?).
I don't see this as a major event for Disney, as I'm sure a comfortable settlement will be reached -- it wouldn't be in the media conglomerate's interest to prolong this legal affair. Marvel shareholders would be the bigger beneficiaries in this case, but still, I wouldn't purchase stock on such a speculative thesis. There actually are better theses out there to support an investment in this entertainment brand. For one thing, W.D. Crotty laid out a marvelous report on the company's earnings and financial situation back in May; plus, Seth Jayson wrote about the company's recent buyback plans.
Marvel is a stock I wish I owned. All you Foolish long-termers out there must be having a ball adding to your positions with the opportunities being handed your way by the market volatility. Short-term noise on the chart of a quality holding is essentially tantamount to riches down the road (nothing is guaranteed, however; remember that!).
Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Disney.