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Case
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Reference no. 316-0075-1
Published by: INSEAD
Originally published in: 2016
Version: 02/2021
Revision date: 12-Feb-2021

Abstract

The Marvel Way: Restoring a Blue Ocean explains one of the greatest turnarounds in modern business history. This case comes with a two-part video interview with then Marvel CEO Peter Cuneo who turned around the business and launched a blue ocean. Founded in 1939, Marvel Comics initially struggled in a red ocean producing primarily me-to knock-off comic books. In the early 1960's Marvel took a blue ocean turn by focusing on non-customer college students. Marvel invented characters that were people first and superheroes second: Spider-Man, The Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men. The business thrived. By the 1980's value extractors took over Marvel, badly misaligning value, profit, and people. In late 1996 Marvel filed for bankruptcy, a victim of red ocean management practices. New management purchased the business out of bankruptcy in 1998 but faced a daunting task: Marvel owed USD30 million in annual interest payments on a USD250 million loan, cash was so tight that they almost missed payroll, and movie rights for many of their best characters were licensed to others. First managers stabilized the business then Marvel created a new type of blue ocean that went on to produce the most profitable movie franchise in history. Just over a decade after exiting bankruptcy a debt-free Marvel sold itself to Disney for USD4.2 billion. The case comes with an exclusive two-part video interview with CEO Peter Cuneo and lecture slides for educators (link in ‘Extra information’ section).

Video trailer

Location:
Other setting(s):
1997-2008

About

Abstract

The Marvel Way: Restoring a Blue Ocean explains one of the greatest turnarounds in modern business history. This case comes with a two-part video interview with then Marvel CEO Peter Cuneo who turned around the business and launched a blue ocean. Founded in 1939, Marvel Comics initially struggled in a red ocean producing primarily me-to knock-off comic books. In the early 1960's Marvel took a blue ocean turn by focusing on non-customer college students. Marvel invented characters that were people first and superheroes second: Spider-Man, The Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men. The business thrived. By the 1980's value extractors took over Marvel, badly misaligning value, profit, and people. In late 1996 Marvel filed for bankruptcy, a victim of red ocean management practices. New management purchased the business out of bankruptcy in 1998 but faced a daunting task: Marvel owed USD30 million in annual interest payments on a USD250 million loan, cash was so tight that they almost missed payroll, and movie rights for many of their best characters were licensed to others. First managers stabilized the business then Marvel created a new type of blue ocean that went on to produce the most profitable movie franchise in history. Just over a decade after exiting bankruptcy a debt-free Marvel sold itself to Disney for USD4.2 billion. The case comes with an exclusive two-part video interview with CEO Peter Cuneo and lecture slides for educators (link in ‘Extra information’ section).

Video trailer


Settings

Location:
Other setting(s):
1997-2008

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