Swedish video game and media company Embracer Group today announced the purchase of Middle-earth Enterprises (MEE) from The Saul Zaentz Company, acquiring all its IP for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in the process.
One of the most-exciting aspects of this annoucement for Tolkien fans is Embracer’s suggestion that it will explore “additional movies based on iconic characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn, Gollum, Galadriel, Eowyn and other characters from Tolkien’s literary works.”
Through MEE, The Saul Zaentz Company held a huge catalogue of worldwide rights to motion pictures, video games, board games, merchandising, theme parks and stage productions all relating to The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit , as well as matching rights in other Middle-earth-related literary works authorized by the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins.
Announcing the deal, Embracer Group CEO and Founder Lars Winger said he was excited to be bringing The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit IP into the 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 [sic] IP portfolio.
The 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.
The Saul Zaentz Company has been producing and licensing a wide variety of successful video games, board games, stage productions and merchandise based on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit for more than forty-five years.
Middle-earth Enterprises: “Embracer the perfect home for Middle-earth”
Fredrica Drotos, the Chief Brand and Licensing Officer of Middle-earth Enterprises said that Middle-earth Enterprises was also thrilled to join the Embracer Group family.
The M-E team whole-heartedly endorses Asmodee’s Andy Jones’ assessment that “Embracer is the perfect home for Middle-earth”… and “the adventure is just beginning”.
We look forward to working together with our new family, to explore new opportunities, and to support the continuing efforts of our long-time partners including all our licensees, and of course, the folks at theonering.net!
Embracer offshoot Asmodee already works in the Middle-earth space
One of Embracer’s subsidiaries, Asmodee Group, is already a very successful licensee of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit through board games and card games. It’s published over a dozen games with more than 100 expansions since the release of The Lord of the Rings board game over 20 years ago, including classics such as The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game and The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth.
An interest in the success of The Rings of Power
Key upcoming works set in Middle-earth, in which Middle-earth Enterprises has financial interests, include the much-heralded Amazon series The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, the animated movie The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim (Warner Bros) which is set for release in 2024, and the mobile game The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth (Electronic Arts).
Potential for new, additional movies
The press release also states that other opportunities include exploring additional movies based on iconic characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn, Gollum, Galadriel, Eowyn and other characters from the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and continue to provide new opportunities for fans to explore this fictive world through merchandising and other experiences.
No change to the operation of Middle-earth Enterprises
Middle-earth Enterprises will be a part of the newly founded operative group Embracer Freemode. The company will continue to operate independently under the existing Middle-earth Enterprises leadership team, working closely with Embracer Freemode management and other Embracer operative groups to foster opportunities, growth and synergies within the Group to continue to build and expand the great franchise.
Both SZC and Embracer have agreed to not disclose the purchase price, but Variety earlier this year reported estimates of the value of the IP at around $2 billion.
Embracer Group owns 125 companies, nearly all video game developers and publishers, and only recently acquired Dark Horse comics. It own 85 franchises including Borderlands, Duke Nukem and Hellboy. This is one of their first, and largest, pure IP acquisitions.
NOTE: This article has been updated to include reaction from Middle-earth Enterprises.