Eisner Nears Muppet Rescue
of the NY Post
After a 13-year odyssey to capture Kermit the Frog, Michael Eisner might be ready to cuff him as early as this week.
The Walt Disney chairman is said to be closer to working out a deal to buy the popular Muppets characters for $100 million - $70 million cash and $30 million in assumed debt.
But other buyers are also said to be involved in the talks, and Eisner may not get the deal due to certain terms he hasn't ironed out yet, sources said.
The German owner of Hollywood-based Jim Henson Co. - founded by the late puppeteer - has been trying to sell the company for two years with no takers.
Investment bank Allen & Co., which has recently shopped Henson for as much as $200 million, had no comment on an impending sale. Disney declined comment.
Eisner tried in 1990 to buy the Muppets to expand Disney's kingdom, but he's dragged his feet in this recent effort to buy Henson, said sources familiar with the talks.
So Allen & Co. pulled in at least four other buyers in recent months - agreeing to pay as much as $2 million for their legal fees if they tossed in new bids to put a fire under Eisner.
Insiders say Eisner has been obsessed with the Henson puppets, and was close to buying the lot from Henson himself for $150 million in 1990.
But the deal unraveled after Henson died unexpectedly, and his heirs got into a nasty court fight against Disney, which settled their lawsuit.
"Eisner's doing this project himself; it's a legacy thing, closure for a deal that went bad," said a source familiar with the deal. "He's purging himself of Jim Henson's ghosts."