Warner may buy Henson for $400 million
of the New York Post
March 12, 2001
to the New York Post, we now have verified a fourth and very serious bidder
to purchase the Jim Henson Company, AOL Time Warner.
Bunny going to rescue the Muppets from Europe and bring them back home
AOL Time Warner, is the latest big studio to look at buying Muppets
producer, Jim Henson Productions, from its embattled German owner, EM.TV.
price could exceed $400 million, industry sources estimate.
and Viacom also have been waiting in the wings to pounce, but only lately
did AOL Time Warner enter the picture, sources said.
studio CEO Charles Rivkin in California is also said to have lined up
financing for a management-led buyout of the Muppets group.
the companies had any comment.
stock has collapsed, it's facing an insider trading probe in Europe
and litigious shareholders are screaming for the head of EM.TV's 49-year-old
chairman and controlling stockholder, Thomas Haffa.
faces new pressure to sell assets in the coming weeks from other deals
that have backfired, sources say.
financial problems mounted, Haffa had no interest in selling the Muppets
group, which he bought more than a year ago for $680 million in stock
likely to change, since Haffa was bailed out four months ago with a
$550 million cash infusion from German media billionaire Leo Kirch,
who got 25 percent of the group and veto power over deals, along with
control of EM.TV's Formula One racing empire.
installed two of his top aides into EM.TV's management and board, and
is said to favor selling the Muppets.
is telling people he doesn't want to wind up as another body on the
road that was killed [in Europe] by an American entertainment icon,"
said one European colleague."
employee confirmed the legitimacy of the offer this afternoon to Muppet
ago, Disney's offer of 300 million was rejected
by EM.TV. Both Disney and Viacom have been interested in the company for
months. Over the weekend, the Hollywood Reporter also released the info
that "Charles Rivkin, Henson's longtime chief financial officer,
is hoping to mount a management buyout of the company from EM.TV."
The 400 million
offer of AOL Time Warner, however, is the most significant by far at this
point and could unite the Muppets with a massive library of characters
from Looney Tunes to Hanna-Barbera's Flintstones and Scooby Doo.
paid $680 million for the Jim Henson Company in February of 2000.
However, they overpaid in order to win the bid. Last December, EM.TV sold
the rights to the Sesame Street characters
for an estimated $180 million. If this
sale comes to be, EM.TV will regain a large percentage of their financial
the suitors have some attractive attributes, AOL Time Warner is an expert
at taking classic characters and revitalizing them in the public eye which
is something the Muppets desperately need. Scooby Doo is a prime example
of this expertise as they've properly strategized and brought the characters
and the thirty year-old cartoon back into the forefront. A live-action
movie is planned as a result of this revitalization.
merchandise, the Warner Brother stores produce a wide variety of well-made
clothes, dolls, figures, exquisite collectibles and more. The publishing
division of Time-Life recently released uncut Muppet Show episodes on
video for the first time in more than 20 years.
Warner owns the following significant mediums:
- TV Networks
- WB Television Network, Home Box Office, and Turner Broadcasting (TBS
Superstation, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, Boomerang, the
CNN family of stations, and more)
- Time Inc. and Time Warner Trade Publishing
- Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema
- Warner Music Group
Systems - Time Warner Cable
Services - America Online