Marvel Toys With Hasbro

In a move that may initially seem surprising, Marvel Entertainment (NYSE: MVL  ) has signed a five-year licensing deal with leading toymaker Hasbro (NYSE: HAS  ) to help expand its reach in toy shelves all over the world.

Until now, Marvel seemed more than happy to license its library of more than 5,000 comic book characters like Spider-Man, Hulk, and Captain America through its own Toy Biz Worldwide division. That deal is being terminated early, with Marvel taking a charge, in order to give Marvel a chance to transition through 2006 until the Hasbro deal kicks in next year. Marvel has been Toy Biz's bread and butter, even though the licensed-playthings specialist also puts out toys based on Curious George and The Lord of the Rings.

As a result of rolling with Hasbro, Marvel will receive $205 million in guaranteed minimums. $100 million is being received in conjunction with the licensing agreement, with another $70 million and $35 million, respectively, doled out as the next two installments of Spider-Man hit the silver screen. Marvel will be getting a thinner royalty cut than it had with Toy Biz, though it is likely hoping that it will be able to make up the difference in volume, since Hasbro and Mattel (Nasdaq: MAT  ) rule the toys and games universe.

The deal unites two Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter service recommendations. Marvel shares are up nearly fivefold since being singled out in the summer of 2002, while Hasbro's stock is trading 42% higher since being picked in 2003.

Licensing can be pretty meaty in the toy business. Hasbro had no problem paying up to put out Star Wars toys. Smaller players have also carved out cozy livings. Where would RC2 (Nasdaq: RCRC  ) be without NASCAR or its Thomas the Tank Engine Learning Curve sets? 4Kids (NYSE: KDE  ) let its Pokemon license expire last month, but it's hard to imagine where the toy licensing specialist would be if it hadn't originally hooked up with Ash, Pikachu, and the rest of the cast from the once-popular Japanese animated series.

Hasbro is now hoping that there's a little more green to be culled from the Hulk and the rest of Marvel's massive library. Let's just hope that the deal doesn't make shareholders angry. You wouldn't want to see them when they're angry.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoyed the Spider-Man and X-Men sequels even more than the originals, but he hasn't been exactly won over by Marvel's other theatrical incarnations. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has adisclosure policy. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.


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