Marvel man’s selloff roils stock price

Shares close up 2% as vice chair unloads 5 mil shares

NEW YORK — Isaac Perlmutter, Marvel Enterprises’ vice chairman and largest shareholder, has disclosed that he sold off more than $100 million in company stock for estate-planning purposes.

Perlmutter on Tuesday sold off 5 million shares, representing approximately 6.5% of total Marvel outstanding stock, in a series of four private block deals priced at $20.40 per share. Although some people associated with Marvel maintained the vice chairman was reducing his stake partly for estate planning purposes, other investors saw profit-taking after Marvel’s highly successful run of theatrical hits and licensing profits this year.

Perlmutter still owns or controls 21,692,941 Marvel shares after the 5 million-share sale this week.

Marvel stock price dropped Wednesday as rumors swept Wall Street that a large investor was attempting to sell 5 million shares. Shares firmed and recovered a bit Thursday after Perlmutter filed disclosure statements with the Securities & Exchange Commission. Shares closed up 2% Thursday at $21.50.

Once a bankrupt comicbook publisher, Marvel has seen its shares soar from $5 a share a year ago to as high as $25 at one point this year.

Licensing sales stemming from the theatrical releases of “X-Men 2,” “The Hulk,” “Spider-Man” and “Daredevil” helped Marvel post a second-quarter profit of $32.8 million on sales of $90 million.

Company is also bullish about the balance of 2003, with big expectations for its toy business from the upcoming release of the third and final “Lord of the Rings” release, for which it has character rights.

Marvel insiders have sold some 8 million shares in the character licensing company since early May.