The Makings of a Tycoon

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For 15 years, licensing agent Tycoon has been acting locally for licensors and licensees. Here's how this Mexico City-based agent has cultivated the licensing business in Latin America.

There's something to be said about being in the "right place at the right time." Indeed, for brothers Elias and Alberto Fasja Cohen, being in the right place at the right time resulted in the creation of now-15-year-old Mexico City-based licensing agency Tycoon.

With licensee backgrounds (Alberto was a licensee for Nina Ricci, Cherokee, and Perry Ellis; Elias was a licensee for Cacharel), the duo decided to embark on a new venture together, as master licensee for a Mexican entertainment live character. But—call it "bad timing"—the program didn't work. That didn't stop this pair, whose many credits include bringing the first retail shop-in-shop environment to Mexico, from moving forward. "Our concept at the time relied upon Alberto dedicated full time to the company, I as a part-time legal and paperwork administrator, a part-time assistant, and another person who delivered agreements to licensees and brought back checks," recalls Elias.

Alberto then happened upon a classified ad for an international licensing agent for Twentieth Century Fox. He responded and ultimately had a meeting with Al Ovadia (then at Fox), who granted Tycoon representation, warning that Fox did not have anything potentially big at the time, but might have something in the ensuing years. Lo and behold, Fox's The Simpsons came to air a few months later, and a sequence of major licensing programs in Mexico, thanks to Tycoon, took shape. It was then Tycoon decided to set its sights on the entertainment licensing area. Tycoon's current client roster ranges from Twentieth Century Fox to Sesame Workshop, Lucas Films, Major League Baseball, Signatures Network, and Scholastic Entertainment, among a host of others (see sidebar). Tycoon today consists of six partners, two associates, 950 employees, and 10 related companies. Services range from marketing strategies creation and implementation to entertainment retail, home video distribution, stage shows and live events, and call centers and communications with offices throughout Latin America.

Worlds Apart

"Because we were such a little entity and didn't want to look like it, we developed a very lean and efficient process and committed ourselves to basic service policies such as replying to faxes within eight hours, even if it was just to say, 'We got your request, and we're working on it.' Coming from Latin America, this had a great impact on licensors," says Elias. "We started with little or no experience, but we were and remain greatly service oriented."

What may have seemed naiveté at the time was good business acumen. Ask licensors represented by Tycoon what sets the agency apart, and answers range from "dedication" to "desire and ability to understand the needs of the licensor." "Tycoon customizes the approach to the business and is willing to take chances. Tycoon has dedicated executives from the top down and bottom up. You always feel like you are its most important client," boasts Maura Regan, vice president, international licensing/new business, Sesame Workshop.

In addition, says Deidra Varona, licensing manager, Latin America, Major League Baseball, "Tycoon has an extensive knowledge of the Latin American marketplace, particularly in Mexico. They have strong relationships with key manufacturers and retailers and a thorough understanding of the licensing business." Isabel Miller, president of Stella Bella, LLC, a licensing and marketing agency, and a former executive of Jim Henson Company Worldwide Consumer Products, says of Tycoon's representation of the Muppets during her tenure, "I was so impressed with Tycoon's marketing plans to launch the properties in Mexico and in Latin America. They spent a great deal of time in understanding our characters and our company philosophy." Tycoon has a team of 30 dedicated licensing professionals.

What's more, while Tycoon's headquarters remain in Mexico City, in 2000, Tycoon promoted and co-founded the Pan-American Licensing Network (PLN), a strategic alliance with licensing agencies concentrated in the Brazil and Argentina territories—Redibra and International Merchandising. The collaboration allows for the agencies to align licensors, licensees, and retailers on a regional basis; simplify operations for licensors and licensees; and leverage their expertise in Latin America and regional free trade agreements. "We simplify our clients' operations by developing regional deals from any of our offices with one dedicated contact. We also share art development to expedite the product development process and minimize licensor and licensee burdens," says Elias.

Retail Development & Opportunity

Since 1994, Tycoon brand managers have been working in tandem with management to focus on retail development in Latin America. As retail constantly is changing through ongoing consolidation of some of Latin America's major retailers (see sidebar for a list of retailers in Mexico), and untapped potential of smaller stores, Tycoon recently reshaped its business approach and is assigning the task of direct-to-retail and retail development to a dedicated vice president.

While Elias maintains there are ongoing concerns in the territories his agency covers, including piracy, a complicated TV scenario to get exposure for new independent properties, and high retail demands for marketing money to support brands, he remains optimistic, saying, "Opportunities are always out there." These include direct-to-retail; food licensing, which he describes as "in its early stage"; non-TV related properties; art, corporate, and fashion brand licensing.

For Tycoon, yet another opportunity remains. As the agency has focused on representing in Latin America and outside of Latin America to be distributed in Latin America, Tycoon picked up its first "domestic" license. Internet-based property huevocartoon.com (offering greeting cards, horoscopes, and animated shorts featuring a cast of bawdy, quick-witted eggs) is gearing up for a feature film via financial support from Televisa's in-house distribution and production company, Videocine, in 2006. Ironically, life does come full circle. As Al Ovadia was the first to grant representation rights to Tycoon, Tycoon has granted representation rights to Al Ovadia & Associates for huevocartoon.com in the U.S.

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