Walt Disney Co. said Monday that it plans to buy Marvel Entertainment Inc. for $4 billion in a deal that would give the Mouse House control over Spider-Man, Iron Man and many other comic book icons.

The deal is one of largest acquisitions in the Burbank entertainment giant's history and is in line with Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger's oft-stated strategy of growing revenue from popular content over time across multiple platforms. Disney last's major acquisition was of Pixar Animation Studios Inc. for $7.4 billion in stock in 2006.

"We believe that adding Marvel to Disney's unique portfolio of brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and value creation," Iger said in a statement.

Marvel's existing production and distribution deals with companies such as Sony Entertainment and Paramount Pictures will remain in place until they expire, Iger told analysts.

Investors in New York City-based Marvel will receive about $30 a share in cash plus 0.745 shares of Disney stock for each Marvel share, with the amount of stock and cash to be adjusted at the close so the value of the Disney stock is at least 40 percent of the purchase price. The deal is valued at $50 per Marvel share, a premium of about 29 percent based on Friday's closing prices.

Disney expects to close the deal by the end of the year, subject to shareholder and any anti-trust issues.

Disney shares were down 64 cents, or 2 percent, to $26.20 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Marvel shares had soared 25 percent in pre-market trading.

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