Brothers Thomas and Florian Haffa, formerly top executives of German kids television group EM.TV, were found guilty April 8, 2003 of fraud and fined $1.5M, according to the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Munich judge Huberta Knoeringer said the Haffas deliberately misrepresented EM.TV's finances to manipulate the company's share price and dismissed their claim that mistakes were made because of confusing international accounting procedures and business practices common to the media industry. Thomas Haffa, founder/CEO of EM.TV, was ordered to pay $1.3M while Florian, former CFO, must pay $250,000. The prosecuting attorney Peter Noll had asked for much higher fines and wanted them placed on eight months probation. The Haffas' lawyer Rainer Hamm is appealing the verdict.EM.TV rose rapidly in the late 1990s from a merchandising company to produce and distribute kids shows and went on a buying spree, overpaying for assets such as the Jim Henson Co. ($680M) and a 50% stake in the Formula One race-car circuit ($1.5 billion). The EM.TV trial lasted for five months and is seen as a possible precedent for other corporate fraud trials in Germany. In August 2000, EM.TV published half-year figures that grossly inflated its revenue and profits. The numbers were later corrected downward in October and December. Thomas Haffa sold 200,000 shares worth of EM.TV stock for almost $20M earlier in 2000. EM.TV forecast a pretax profit of $240M, but ultimately booked a net loss of just under $1.5 billion.
Eric Fogel, creator of MTV's CELEBRITY DEATHMATCH and producing partner John Lynn have opened AniMotion Unlimited, a full service animation studio located in Midtown Manhattan. The studio's mission is to keep animation production alive and well on the East Coast, according to Fogel. Fogel was creator/director/co-exec producer of CELEBRITY DEATHMATCH, MTV's first clay-animated series that had a four-season run, starting in 1998.
German children's TV firm EM.TV & Merchandising again reported a major year-end net loss of $335M on March 31, 2003. EM.TV's revenues reached $272M, down 5% from 2001's adjusted sales. EM.TV cites the major write-off connected to its stake in the Formula One racing circuit and it is still reeling from the aftereffects of the bankruptcy of the KirchGroup. EM.TV CEO Werner Klatten said he expects to improve his company's position significantly soon by the sale of the Jim Henson Co. and acquisition of former Kirch broadcaster DSF, both anticipated to be completed by the end of this month. Klatten said restructuring of EM.TV should be completed in 2003 while the operating board continues to focus on new genres and target groups, especially sports.
TOKYOPOP, the leading manga publisher in the North America, is expanding in the U.K., establishing offices in London via a partnership with Red Route Distribution Ltd., the leading supplier of graphic novels to the British book trade and specialized retail market. TOKYOPOP and Red Route hope to tap into Britain's budding market of manga enthusiasts. The companies solidified the arrangement while sharing a joint exhibit at the London Book Fair. Over the past year, TOKYOPOP has more than doubled its revenue and increased its book trade penetration by some 300%. In a daring move for a manga publisher, TOKYOPOP introduced a line of 100% Authentic Manga, graphic novels printed right-to-left, breaking with the Japanese tradition of reading left-to-right, which was a big hit with consumers. Founded in 1996, TOKYOPOP publishes several hit properties based on popular Cartoon Network and Kids' WB! programs. TOKYOPOP titles include SAILOR MOON, GUNDAM WING, INITIAL D, REAL BOUT HIGH SCHOOL and COWBOY BEBOP. It is also publishing novels based upon Disney TV series KIM POSSIBLE and LIZZIE MCGUIRE. Visit www.TOKYOPOP.com for additional information.
Newly formed Alligator Planet, based in San Francisco, has formed a joint venture with tv-animation, the Copenhagen creator of animated and interactive characters. Alligator AP will market to North America programs made with tv-animation's revolutionary Cartoon Broadcast System (CBS) technology and develop new products to utilize this real-time animation broadcast tool. Ralph Guggenheim, AP's exec. producer (former Pixar VP and producer of TOY STORY), told AWN he encountered the tv-animation people at MIPCOM in October 2002. Guggenheim formed his own company in January 2003 with former Colossal Pictures execs and creatives Eli Noyes, Tim Boxell and Alan Buder. "We've been talking with TV cabler channels and the like. We constantly hear, 'How can you do it cheap?' The CBS system is a great opportunity to produce content fairly cheaply and still be fun and compelling." The technology is used now on the NELLY NUT show airing on the BBC, as well as shows airing on many other European channels, including a two-hour talk show. Guggenheim said he's seen how other types of shows, popular in Europe are making their way to the U.S., and sees this is a good opportunity. Guggenheim firmly believes this technology is the new scale of animated TV to come.The Danish firm will market any shows AP comes up with to the European market. Guggenheim said they named the new enterprise Alligator Planet (www.alliagtorplanet.com) because the founding partners like alligators and it's helpful to have a company name near the top of the alphabet while the planet in its name signifies AP's global approach to entertainment and business. The goal of AP is tap into the creative and production capacities of emerging animation studios around the world to produce and distribute stories and characters across a variety of media and ancillary markets.
Entrepreneur Haim Saban signed the 40,000-page contract on March 27, 2003 for the acquisition of the largest film library outside of Hollywood and the film rights business from KirchMedia. The Saban Group is acquiring programming rights to approximately 18,000 films and series. "With this contract now in place," Saban said in a statement, "both the content and distribution assets of Germanys premier media company will be positioned for future success." "The film library is a treasure, which until now has largely been underutilized," said Adam Chesnoff of the Saban Group, who also signed the contract along with insolvency administrator Dr. Michael Jaffé and KirchMedia managing director Hans-Joachim Ziems. Chesnoff continued, "We intend to leverage these unique offerings in order to strengthen both ProSiebenSat.1 and the library distribution business." The contract, along with the agreement to purchase a majority in ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG, is expected to be approved by the KirchMedia creditor committee on March 31, 2003. Terms of the contracts were not disclosed. The transaction also needs to pass regulatory and antitrust review in Germany. Insolvency administrator Jaffé expressed his "satisfaction in being able to obtain with the sale of the KirchMedia core businesses a maximum for the creditors considering the bad economy and the particular situation of the insolvency." KirchMedia is among the largest companies worldwide in purchasing and marketing program rights for free-TV, pay-TV, video and new media. Saban Capital Group (310-557-5100) is a private investment firm specializing in the media and entertainment industries. TV specialist Saban founded Saban Entertainment and the TV network Fox Family Worldwide. In fall 2001 Saban sold Fox Family Worldwide to the Walt Disney Corp. Saban has decades of experience in the TV business, including the production and distribution of children and family shows as well as the film rights trade and the operation of TV channels.
TV-Loonland has sold its 72.6% interest in its SRE Corp. of Korea (formerly Saerom Entertainment Co. Ltd.) to the Seoul-based media company Moohandae Media Ltd. The companies are not disclosing the purchase price. During the 2001 financial year SRE posted losses of 1.1 million Euros, a figure significantly increased by declining revenues during the 2002 financial year, according to TV-Loonland.
Billionaire entrepreneur, Haim Saban, who built a massive entertainment empire on the backs of the MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS, became the first non-German to take over a major commercial TV broadcaster in Germany in two deals valued at about $2 billion. The agreement, spearheaded by his COO Adam Chesnoff, gives him a 36% stake in ProSiebenSat.1 and 72% of its voting shares in Germany's biggest broadcasting group. Recent reports had Saban bidding with French channel TF1 for the assets of bankrupt KirchMedia. While TF1 was not part of this deal it may acquire more of KirchMedia at a later date. Saban is also in the final stages to take over Kirch's licensing business, including its vast programming library in a separate $1.4 billion deal. KirchMedia will retain a 16.5% share of ProSiebenSat.1 voting rights via its joint venture with German publisher Axel Springer Verlag. Saban said in a statement, "I am confident that with our extensive experience and contacts in the global media industry combined with the continued hard work and commitment of the talented management team and employees of KirchMedia and ProSiebenSat.1, we will be well positioned for significant long-term growth as advertising levels recover and the overall economy improves in the world's second largest media market." Based in Munich, ProSiebenSat.1 runs four commercial channels: ProSieben, Sat. 1, Kabel 1 and N24, representing more than 25% of the German TV audience and about 40% of the territory's TV advertising revenue. The Egyptian-born Israeli-American Saban will control half of Germany's commercial TV market alongside Bertelsmann's RTL Group. The takeover deal has to be approved by Kirch's creditors as well as the Federal Cartel Office and Germany's media oversight commission. A Saban spokesman said the deal is expected to close in about two months.
Lucia Annunziata, a former RAI political programming host and news editor, has been appointed president of RAI, its second president in less than two weeks, it was reported by the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Italy's two parliamentary chambers named her the chief executive a day after Paolo Mieli stepped down as RAI president only five days after he was appointed. Mieli claimed political and the technical difficulties spurred his resignation.
The businesswires are buzzing that entrepreneur Haim Saban and French broadcaster TF1 will most likely buy Germany's biggest broadcast group, Kirch Media. Saban, who ran Saban Entertainment and Fox Family Worldwide before selling off those assets, was in a bidding war with German publisher Heinrich Bauer who stopped making counteroffers this week. This clears the way for Saban and TF1 to clinch a deal valued at about $2 billion to get a 52.2% stake in Kirch's ProSiebenSat.1 and its vast film rights library.
Less than a week after Paolo Mieli was appointed president of Italian state broadcaster RAI, the former newspaper editor resigned as head of the network, citing "technical and political" reasons it was reported by the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The upheaval has been unfolding amid controversy over prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's supposed sway over RAI when he controls Mediaset, RAI's main private rival. Mieli is said to have accepted the post on the condition that he would be free to choose the appointee to the general director post, currently held by Angostino Sacca.
Twentieth Century Fox and Marvel Enterprises have resolved their differences concerning the syndicated television series MUTANT X. Terms of the settlement were not released but have been amicably resolved according to a Fox statement and both sides are looking forward to expanding the relationship. Fox produced the X-MEN film in 2000, based upon the original comic book characters. A sequel is scheduled for release this year.
Upheavals at RAI have been resolved for the time being with the appointment of Paolo Mieli, head of publisher Rizzoli-Corriere della Sera, as president of Italy's pubcaster, along with four new board members, according to VARIETY. Mieli, a journalist and author of books tracing the history of Italy's leftist politics, replaces Antonio Baldassarre. Baldassarre and RAI board member Ettore Albertoni submitted their resignations in response to government pressure on February 26, 2003.
Upheavals at RAI have been resolved for the time being with the appointment of Paolo Mieli, head of publisher Rizzoli-Corriere della Sera, as president of Italy's pubcaster, along with four new board members, according to VARIETY. Mieli, a journalist and author of books tracing the history of Italy's leftist politics, replaces Antonio Baldassarre. Baldassarre and RAI board member Ether Albertoni submitted their resignations in response to government pressure on February 26, 2003.
A U.S. investment group led by media entrepreneur Dean Valentine and Europlay Capital Advisors, LLC terminated its official bid to buy 49.9% of The Jim Henson Company, Inc. from EM.TV & Merchandising. The terms of the non-binding letter of intent agreed upon in late December 2002 have been terminated. Former UPN chief Valentine, who also ran Walt Disney Co.'s Touchstone TV and the animation unit, was keen on buying a majority interest in JHC to expand the Henson brand into all areas of family entertainment.
Mattel is consolidating its girls and boys/entertainment business units into one divison renamed Mattel Brands. The new global group includes the Barbie and Hot Wheels mega brands. Chairman/CEO of Mattel Robert Eckert said the move to reduce redundancies was consistent with "our 'one Mattel' approach to doing business," he said. Former boys/entertainment division president Matt Bousquette is promoted to president of Mattel Brands, with the elimination of approximately 5% of the executive level positions, with Adrienne Fontanella exiting as president of the girls division.
The shakeup continues at Italian state broadcaster RAI with its president Antonio Baldassarre stepping down in response to government pressure. Baldassarre and RAI board member Ettore Albertoni submitted their resignations to Italy's lower and upper houses on February 26. Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini has been spearheading the move to remove RAI's top executives, especially after they decided to move one of RAI's channels, RAI2, to Milan without government approval.
Marvel Enterprises sued Sony Pictures Entertainment on February 25, 2003, in Los Angeles Superior Court over a licensing agreement regarding the SPIDER-MAN theatrical release. The suit was filed through Marvel's subsidiary Marvel Characters, Inc., against SPE and SPE Spider-Man GP Inc. Sony does not comment on pending litigation. Marvel said in a statement, "The complaint is not an attempt to stop production of the SPIDER-MAN sequel slated for May 2004 nor is it an attempt to change or upset any of the merchandising/licensing deals that are in place for the sequel.
Chief executives at Italian state broadcaster RAI have been asked to resign by prominent members of the government in response to the broadcaster's decision to move RAI2, one of its three channels, from Rome to Milan, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini has asked the RAI board of directors to step down, especailly RAI president Antonio Baldassarre, who heads the board, and its general director Agostino Sacca.
Haim Saban, billionaire entrepreneur who ran Saban Entertainment and Fox Family Worldwide before selling off those assets, reportedly will make a binding offer for bankrupt Kirch Media in Germany according to DAILY VARIETY. He is meeting with creditor banks with his chief strategy officer Adam Chesnoff and examining Kirch Media's books. Media conglomerate Kirch owns one of Germany's largest broadcasting groups, ProSiebenSat 1, as well as a vast film library. German publisher Heinrich Bauer is also interested in buying the group.
Bankrupt Stan Lee Media is suing Merrill Lynch brokerage, seeking $10 million for the firm's alleged part in the company's demise, according to a report by Associated Press. The Internet company named after comics creator Stan Lee filed suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court, alleging the brokerage firm didnt do enough to keep Stephen Gordon, former VP Stan Lee Media, and his brother Jonathan, a Merrill Lynch financial consultant, from running an alleged scheme to manipulate the price of the company's stock.
Dr. Peter Duval has resigned from his position as speaker of the managing board of German entertainment company RTV as of January 31, 2003. During the recent restructuring process, the business volume of RTV has been reduced considerably and Duval stated that he no longer wanted to be at the disposal of the restructured company. This restructuring reduced the amount of ongoing production obligations the company had.
In a February 6, 2003 fourth quarter and fiscal year earnings teleconference, Steve Jobs confirmed that Pixar was in initial talks with other major motion picture studios, heightening the speculation that Pixar may not renew its partnership with Disney once the seventh film under the current deal is completed. Under the conditions of the existing agreement, Pixar had the right to begin negotiations after the fifth film was delivered.
IDT Media is expanding its animation business, offering its services to toy companies to create low-cost 3D series for television or home video. IDT's production subsidiary Digital Production Solutions (DPS) and its Global Animation Studio plan to provide high-quality 3D animation solutions at a lower cost for toy manufacturers.
The fur continues to fly in the Winnie the Pooh royalties case, as The Walt Disney Company has now asked a Superior Court judge to dismiss the nearly twelve year-old lawsuit. According to an AP report, Disney accused Stephen Slesinger Inc., the company that owns the Winnie the Pooh merchandising rights, of "pervasive misconduct and illegal activities," including stealing documents by rifling through Disney's garbage. Disney also said the company destroyed potential evidence in the case.