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A Comic Wars Timeline

Comic Wars' battle for Marvel

January 1989: Ronald O. Perelman acquires Marvel Entertainment Group for $82.5 million, about $10 million from his pocket and the rest borrowed.

July 1991: Marvel (ticker symbol MRV) sells stock to the public for the first time, the IPO providing $40 million cash to Perelman while he retains 60% of the shares.

1992-1995: In an expansion binge, Marvel spends $590 million (borrowed from a bank syndicate led by Chase Manhattan) to acquire Fleer and SkyBox trading-card companies and an entertainment-sticker maker, Panini.

April 1993: Perelman cuts an unusual deal with Ike Perlmutter and Avi Arad, two Israeli immigrants who run Toy Biz. They get a perpetual license to make toys based on Marvel characters without paying any royalties; and Marvel gets 46% of highly profitable Toy Biz. MRV's stock rises to $34, seventeen times its initial price, giving Marvel a market value of over $3 billion.

1993-1994: Using the sky-high shares as collateral, Perelman forms holding companies to sell Marvel "high yield notes" (junk bonds) in three tranches. He personally nets over $500 million. When the bonds come due in five years, he can repay the investors or -- if MRV stock collapses -- he can just hand over the shares and walk away. (Later, Perelman is cleared of charges of unjust enrichment; litigation lingers.)

1995-1996: Marvel has its first unprofitable year, and 1996 is even worse, because of slumping comic-book and baseball-card sales and crippling bank debt.

November 1996: Perelman offers to rescue the company by injecting $350 million, but only if many more shares are created and given to him. Carl Icahn buys Marvel's bonds -- at 20 cents per dollar of value -- and vows to block the Perelman plan. All-out war breaks out.

December 27, 1996: Perelman's Marvel files for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington. But the bondholders, led by Icahn, win: Perelman is forced to leave.

June 20, 1997: Icahn is installed as Marvel's chairman but has a lot of trouble in this unfamiliar field. Toy Biz is in a panic: in grueling talks with Perelman, then Icahn, then the banks, and back to Icahn. The banks' lawyer is the very demanding Chaim Fortgang. No one is tougher than Carl Icahn. Ike Perlmutter and Avi Arad try to get along with him, but decide they can't. The battle is long and multi-sided, featuring huge egos and all-night arguments. Icahn has a deal with the banks; but then Toy Biz has a deal with the banks to reorganize Marvel, settle some of the debts, and march on as a merged company.

December 1997: A federal judge ousts Icahn and appoints a Trustee to administer Marvel. The negotiations become even more complicated. The banks' Fortgang pushes for the best terms possible.

June 1998: After six months marked by pressure from Icahn, Toy Biz wins a federal judge's approval for its takeover of Marvel -- completed in October with the birth of a new company: Marvel Enterprises (ticker symbol MVL), run by Ike Perlmutter and Avi Arad. The little guys beat Ron Perelman and Carl Icahn.

2000: The X-Men movie is a hit.

May 2002: The Spider-Man movie.

2003: The Hulk, directed by Ang Lee ... and many more, as Marvel keeps comic-book culture alive in new ways, while raking in licensing income and innovatively buying back its bonds to slash debt.

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