Swedish video game company Embracer Group has acquired Middle-earth Enterprises, a division of The Saul Zaentz Company, which owns the intellectual property catalogue and worldwide rights to The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. But the deal means Embracer Group will pick up the motion picture, video game, board game, merchandising, theme parks and stage production rights relating to The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit franchises as well as matching rights in other Middle-earth-related literary works authorized by the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins, which have yet to be explored.
“I am truly excited to have The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, one of the world’s most epic fantasy franchises join the Embracer family, opening up more transmedia opportunities including synergies across our global group,” said Lars Wingefors, Founder and Group CEO Embracer Group. “I am thrilled to see what lies in the future for this IP with Freemode and Asmodee as a start within the group. Going forward, we also look forward to collaborating with both existing and new external licensees of our increasingly stronger IP portfolio.”
As part of the deal, Middle-earth Enterprises will form part of the newly founded operative group Embracer Freemode. The company will continue to operate independently under the existing Middle-earth Enterprises leadership team.
In a statement, Marty Glick, COO of The Saul Zaentz Company, said: “We at the Zaentz Company have had the honor over the past half century of stewarding the Tolkien rights so that Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans worldwide could enjoy award winning epic films, challenging video games, first rate theatre and merchandise of every variety. We could not be more thrilled that it is Embracer now taking up the responsibility and we are confident their group will take it to new heights and dimensions while maintaining homage to the spirit of these great literary works.”
Embracer’s operative group Asmodee Group has a long-standing relationship with Tolkien IP, having published The Lord of the Rings board game over 20 years ago as well as producing The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game.
Key upcoming works set in Middle-earth, in which Middle-earth Enterprises has financial interests, include Amazon’s highly-anticipated series The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, which debuts September 2, 2022, as well as the Warner Bros. animated movie The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim, set for release in 2024, and the EA mobile game The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP acted as legal advisor to Embracer Group. Arnold & Porter acted as legal advisor and ACF Investment Bank acted as Investment Banker to The Saul Zaentz Company.