Investor Group Nabs Toys “R” Us After months of speculation, Toys “R” Us, Inc., reached a definitive agreement to sell its worldwide operations—including both its global Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us businesses—to an investment group consisting of affiliates of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Bain Capital Partners LLC, and Vornado Realty Trust. As part of the deal, the investment group will acquire all the outstanding shares of the company for $6.6 billion, or $26.75 per share. Each of the investors will own equal shares in the company upon completion of the deal, expected in July. Bain also owns K•B Toys, which currently is trying to emerge from Chapter 11.
Apax Buys HIT Entertainment Sunshine Acquisitions, a company set up by private equity firm Apax Partners, purchased HIT Entertainment, owner of properties such as Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine, Barney, and Angelina Ballerina, for £489.4 million (U.S. $930 million). HIT issued a profits warning last June, after Wal-Mart reduced the amount of shelf space it dedicated to Bob the Builder products. HIT’s interim results for the six months ended January 31, 2005, were down; according to CEO Charles Burdick, improved second-half results will depend on the success of HIT’s video release schedule and the September launch of the U.S. cable channel joint venture backed by Comcast, Sesame Workshop, and PBS.
The Muppets Bloom at Macy’s The Muppets took center stage at Macy’s annual Flower Show with six scenes from the upcoming The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz recreated with thousands of live flowers in the windows of Macy’s Herald Square New York store. The original film will air on ABC in May co-starring Ashanti, as well as Queen Latifah, Quentin Tarantino, David Allen Grier, and Jeffrey Tambor, along with Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and the rest of the Muppet gang. Macy’s also will merchandise exclusive products during the spring season, as well as feature a preview of the film at special kiosks stationed throughout the store.
Ovadia Launches New Company Al Ovadia, former executive vice president of Sony Pictures Consumer Products, launched Al Ovadia & Associates, which signed its first deal with Tycoon Enterprises, the worldwide licensing agent for Latin American property Huevocartoon.com. The Huevocartoon.com Website launched in January 2002 and offers e-cards, games, and animated shorts, all featuring a collection of quick-witted and irreverent eggs. The site receives 275,000 visitors per day (equaling 9 million visitors per month), making it one of the most visited entertainment sites in all of Latin America. Al Ovadia & Associates also will offer a variety of other services, including intellectual property representation; licensing; and promotion, as well as securing co-financing and distribution of TV, home entertainment, and film properties.
Matheny Takes Helm at Global Brands Group Global Brands Group appointed Mark Matheny CEO and president. The former executive vice president at Warner Bros. Consumer Products will be responsible for building the company’s licensing business through intellectual property acquisitions and expansion of its sales and marketing network. Matheny also will open the firm’s office in Los Angeles.
New Line Cinema Resurrects Horror Classics New Line Cinema will introduce new seasonal home/party décor products based on its horror franchises, as well as extend the properties into comic books and novels. New product rollouts are being spearheaded by Rubie’s Costume Co. with the introduction of a line of Freddy, Jason, and Leatherface partyware. Gemmy Industries will create a full-size animatronic Freddy Krueger figure, while Bradford Exchange/Hawthorne Village debuts the Village of Horror Classics Collection, a porcelain line to include Camp Crystal Lake Cabin (based on Friday the 13th) with Jason figures; an illuminated 842 Elm Street with Freddy Krueger figures; and The Hewitt House, the run-down home of Leatherface’s grandfather from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Celador International Creates New Division Celador International launched its new Brand Alliances division and appointed Mathew Freer head of it. Freer is an ex-format creator for the BBC and Carlton and senior account director at advertising agencies Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe and EURO RSCG Wnek Gosper. The new division will work closely with brands and the agencies that represent them to offer advice and assistance in the creation and exploitation of advertiser-funded programs and events, broadcast sponsorship, and barter deals. Brand Alliances also will offer brand owners one-off consultancy services in areas that complement its own experience in interactive media, brand licensing, and event production. The division’s first project will be to assist in the attraction of sponsors for The British Independent Film Awards, scheduled for November 2005, which will be filmed by Celador International’s subsidiary production company, Celador Music & Events, as well as working with its sister divisions in the exploitation of rights to the FIFPRO World XI Player Awards, which take place at Wembley September 19, 2005. Duo Acquires Rights to Upcoming Cartoon Network Series Broadway Video Enterprises, a division of Lorne Michael’s Broadway Video, and GoodTimes Entertainment acquired the joint rights to ThunderForce, one of the hottest Taiwanese youth properties for the last 15 years. The deal, negotiated with Distant Horizon, covers domestic and international rights for television, merchandising, and licensing (all categories) and home video for the martial arts franchise to be renamed Wulin Warriors: Legend of the Seven Stars. Both companies are seeking licensing partners for the property due on Cartoon Network this fall.
Nicktoons Supports Shuriken School Nicktoons, Nickelodeon’s digital channel for kids’ favorite animated hits, will partner with Paris-based studio Xilam Animation for Shuriken School, a quirky playground comedy with a martial arts twist about a boy’s adventures at Ninja school. Produced by Xilam and based on an original idea by Zinkia Entertainment, the series is made up of 26 half-hour shows and will air on Nicktoons in 2006.
TLC Is High on Bromwell High The Licensing Company acquired the rights to Bromwell High, co-produced by Hat Trick Productions and Canada’s Decode Entertainment. Bromwell High, an animated comedy that follows the exploits of three naughty girls, is due to launch this spring on Channel 4 and is expected to play a major role in the channel’s Friday night comedy slot. The nature of the material is aimed at 18- to 35-years-olds with merchandise expected to start appearing in record stores and gift retailers a few weeks after the first episode airs. Initial deals are being done for posters, greetings cards, calendars, and gifts including mugs and key rings.
The Seranata Group Builds Jidousports Program The Seranata Group awarded Bonus Mobile Entertainment the cellular, video game, and collector card rights to Jidousports. An original anime-based toy and entertainment brand in Asia, Jidousports currently is being introduced into the U.S. market through the launch of a 26-episode animated series now in production accompanied by a range of licensing activity. Aimed at children ages 6 to 12, the Jidousports action-adventure animated series follows the journeys of Jidou and his three friends as they travel the world to participate in sporting events. The Seranata Group is the U.S. media and licensing representative of Jidousports on behalf of Hong Kong-based The Jidou Company.
Celebrate 25 Years of Licensing International, June 21-23, 2005, Javits Convention Center, NYC Preregister now for Licensing 2005 International to get free exhibits admission ($100 value) and to take advantage of conference registration savings. Plus, discover new and profitable properties/brands, forge merchandising and promotional partnerships, preview the latest trends in consumer retailing, network with the largest gathering of licensing professionals in the world, and attend seminars given by industry experts at Licensing University. For complete show details, including a list of exhibitors, networking events, and registration and conference information, visit www.licensingshow.com or call (800) 331-5706 / (218) 723-9130 (8 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday).
License! Show Preview Deadline Attention, all Licensing 2005 International Show exhibitors: The deadline for License!’s May Show Preview is Monday, April 4. Please submit a 100-word editorial blurb including properties you will be highlighting at the show, new licensing deals signed, and/or categories available for licensing, plus ONE piece of artwork and contact information (name, phone number, e-mail address, and Website) to Managing Editor Lorri Freifeld (email@example.com).
Make Sure You’re Listed in the License! Black Book The 2005-2006 License! Black Book provides complete listings and contact information for top licensors, licensees, retailers, licensing agents, international agents, promotional partners, consultants, designers, and PR firms. It’s a handy reference guide to search for industry resources, and it’s sent free of charge to 10,000 top retailers. If you haven’t already submitted your free listing for the Black Book, please do so by March 22 by clicking here http://www.licensemag.com/licensemag/static/staticHtml.jsp?id=145403 You’ll also see information on getting more exposure in the Black Book via a multitude of advertising opportunities. License! Advertising Fact: Did you know that License! reaches more decision makers than other industry publications? CEOs, owners, presidents, vice presidents, and general managers represent more than 70 percent of License!’s circulation, according to our December 2004 BPA statement.
Licensing Days at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair For the first time, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair will host two days of seminars entirely focused on the licensing business. In cooperation with License! magazine and LIMA, keynote speakers from licensing and entertainment will meet publishers April 14 and 15 to focus on merchandising, brands, and more. The seminars, “Learning about Licensing,” are organized in the framework of the TV/Film & Licensing Rights Centre of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Seminars include: Licensing by the Numbers, Publishing + Entertainment, and Beyond the Books: Strategies for Licensing & Merchandising Publishing Properties. The TV/Film & Licensing Rights Centre is an international copyright marketplace focused on children’s content. Here, TV and film licensing professionals—including producers, broadcasters, agents responsible for selling/buying rights, as well as those responsible for business development and new projects, licensors, and licensees—can access a constantly updated list of visual rights available from leading children’s publishers and literary agents exhibiting at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and add their own descriptions of intellectual properties they wish to offer to show participants. All LIMA members can register at the centre, saving 20 percent on the registration fee.