Estate Planning Lessons from George LucasA guest post from Robert Lamm, Partner at Cummins & White, LLP
As a child, I was a big fan of Star Wars. I loved all of the movies (Star Wars, The Empire Strike Back, and Return of the Jedi) and insisted on having all of the toys and action figures. I even managed to score a Death Star, which, back in the day, was quite unique. All of my friends were jealous, and life was good.
Then, George Lucas released the “prequels” and the magic was lost. The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith were all a modern-day cinematic Hindenburg. In the end, I guess plot and casting really does matter. Awesome special effects will only take you so far.
Having said all that, I have to tip my hat to George Lucas. Lucas Arts, the owner of the Star Wars brand created by Mr. Lucas years ago in a galaxy far away, is a money making machine and in case you have not heard, Mr. Lucas just sold his entire stake in the company to Disney for $4.05 billion in cash and stock. It turns out Mr. Lucas is a Jedi Knight in the Art of Estate Planning, and he too saw “Taxmageddon” coming.
First of all, by selling in 2012, he is saving about 10% in capital gains tax. While that may not seem like much, 10% of a few billion dollars is a lot of money. Moreover, depending on how he structured the deal, he could be saving his children up to $2 billion in future estate tax and save them from a forced liquidation of the company upon his death. I suspect that Mr. Lucas will still play an active role in promoting the Star Wars brand, but it will be off of his balance sheet for estate tax purposes. Not bad, young Jedi.
When asked about the deal, Mr. Lucas said, “I felt like I wanted to put the company somewhere in a larger entity that would protect it….We could go on making Star Wars for the next 100 years.” Somewhere in the background, I can hear Obi Wan saying, “The force will be with you, always.”