EM.TV Sells Muppets Stake
All the speculation that the Muppets might join Mickey Mouse as part of the Disney family seems to have been for naught, as German entertainment company EM.TV and Merchandising AG announced that it has completed a letter of intent with a U.S. investment group for the partial sale of The Jim Henson Company, Inc. (JHC). EM.TV acquired 100 percent of Jim Henson in 2000 and then put the company on the block in 2001. The proposed agreement foresees a sale of 49.9 percent of JHC to an investment group led by Dean Valentine, together with Europlay Capital Advisors. The parties expect to complete the sale during January 2003. Dean Valentine was previously CEO of the United Paramount Network (UPN) and the former president of Disney/Touchstone Network Television & Animation. He was responsible for the creation of Disney/ABCs One Saturday Morning block of childrens programming, including the hit show RECESS. Valentine also established Disneys successful direct-to-video animation business, which included sequels to the LION KING, LADY AND THE TRAMP and POCAHONTAS, as well as a number of award-winning WINNIE THE POOH productions. The Valentine management team includes Mort Marcus, formerly chairman of Miramax Television and Video, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, and Nick Van Dyk, former executive vice president and chief strategic officer of Artisan Entertainment. Valentine, who will be in charge of the operations of JHC, commented: "Henson is one the great global brands in the entertainment world. We are committed to continuing the legacy of creativity, humor and humanity that marked everything Jim Henson touched. At the same time we feel there is enormous potential for growth, not merely from Kermit and the Muppets, but from the expansion of the Henson brand into all areas of family entertainment." The Dean Valentine management team has partnered with Europlay Capital Advisors, a private investor and advisory firm specializing in media and entertainment companies, for the purchase. Europlay is led by chairman Mark Dyne and managing director Pamela Colburn. This partial sale will permit EM.TV to pay the remaining amount due under the so-called "Junior Loan," which financed EM.TVs 50% acquisition of its interest in the Junior TV joint venture with the failed Kirch Media Group. Junior.TV's program inventory consists of a mixture of animation and live-action. EM.TV will remain as the majority owner of The Jim Henson Company and will continue to undertake international distribution on behalf of Jim Henson productions.