Marvel Settles with Lee, Pacts with Paramount

While they may not exactly be super friends again, Marvel Enterprises Inc. and comic-book creator Stan Lee have put an end to their lengthy court battle. Lee has accepted an undisclosed settlement figure in the lawsuit he filed in November of 2002.

Lee claimed that he was entitled to a share of profits earned by Marvel from the blockbuster Spider-Man movies and other film and television productions that feature Marvel characters. The settlement covers Lee’s participation claim for both past and any potential future payments. John Turitzin, Marvel’s general counsel, issued a statement saying, “Stan is one of the founders of today’s comic book industry. We are pleased with the settlement and are happy to have resolved all of our disputes with him.”

Marvel today announced that Paramount Pictures will distribute a slate of Marvel-produced feature films under a new pact. The contract specifies that Marvel may deliver up to ten films to Paramount over an eight-year period, with the first production expected to be released in 2007 or 2008. The entities have not specified what the first film will be, but note that the initial set of titles will include Captain America and Nick Fury. The movies will be budgeted between $45 million and $180 million.

In order to fund its own productions, Marvel has obtained a financing commitment from Merrill Lynch Commercial Finance Corp. for a $525 million non-recourse revolving credit facility over seven years. The facility will be secured by the theatrical and motion picture production and distribution rights for ten Marvel characters. The non-recourse element limits Marvel’s cash risk to un-reimbursed development costs and general incremental overhead.

The finance structure will also allow Marvel to receive a producer fee for each film and retain all merchandising revenues. Paramount will receive a distribution fee for each film and will retain worldwide distribution rights for sequels to pics covered under the agreement.