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Henson Family Buys Back Muppet Company For $89 Million

The Henson family is the winning bidder to buy 100% of The Jim Henson Company from German kids TV outfit EM.TV Merchandising AG for $89 million. Recently Disney, Saban and Sony Pictures had appeared to be the likely buyers. The Henson heirs sold the company to EM.TV three years ago for $680 million and now are set to pay $78 million in cash plus $11 million of the Henson Co. assets.

Earlier in 2003, EM.TV received a $37 million pre-payment from Sesame Workshop to acquire rights to Henson-created Sesame Street characters. Sale of the Henson Co. interests in the Odyssey, Noggin and Kermit cable channels had been sold off already by EM.TV for around $250 million. While this still represents a loss of more than $200, it will secure EM.TV's liquidity to pay off its Junior loan of $12.5 million due this month. EM.TV will have almost no short-term financial obligations outstanding and its long-term debt will consist of the convertible bond due in February 2005. "With the successful completion of the complex sales process, we have completed major steps in restructuring of EM.TV," said Werner E. Klatten, chairman of the management board of EM.TV.

The sale is subject to shareholder approval with the management board arranging to call the 2003 annual meeting at the earliest possible date. When the deal is finalized Jim Henson's children Brian, John, Lisa, Cheryl and Heather will join the JHC board. JHC's units include Henson TV, Jim Henson Pictures, Jim Henson Interactive, Henson Home Entertainment, Henson Recording Studios and Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Assets to be returned the family considered part of the payment are THE MUPPET BABIES, THE FRAGGLES, THE HOOBS, FARSCAPE and BEAR IN THE BIG BLUE HOUSE.