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Hit Ent. Founder Peter Orton Dies

Peter Orton, founder and chairman of HIT Ent., whose properties include BOB THE BUILDER and THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE, has died following a long battle with throat cancer, reports THIS IS WILTSHIRE and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. He was 64.

A colorful entrepreneur and rugby enthusiast, Orton was responsible for a number of worldwide preschool TV franchises, including PINGU, ANGELINA BALLERINA and KIPPER. He started HIT with distribution rights to 60 episodes of ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS and built it into the U.K.'s leading prschool program producer, as well as a highly successful licensing and merchandising business. After HIT was sold to Apax Partners in 2005, Orton embarked on a number of charitable activities.

A private service will be held at St. Peter's Church in Clyffe Pypard, U.K., with a memorial service in London planned for a later date.