The Walt Disney Company is to acquire Lucasfilm for $4.05bn in stocks and cash - and is planning to release Star Wars: Episode 7 in 2015.

Kathleen Kennedy, currently co-chair of Lucasfilm, has been named Lucasfilm’s president and will report to Walt Disney Studios chair Alan Horn.

Lucasfilm, which is 100% owned by chairman and founder George Lucas, joins a portfolio of brands including Disney, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel and ABC.

Disney is paying around half in cash and issuing approximately 40m shares.

“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said Lucas (pictured). “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime.

“I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organisation, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”

Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the saga.

The previous six films have earned a total of $4.4bn in global box to date.

Kennedy will also serve as the brand manager for Star Wars and executive producer on new feature films in the sci-fi saga, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant.

Lucasfilm, founded in 1971 and headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd, LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.