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DHX Buys Peanuts Stake, Strawberry Shortcake From Iconix image

DHX Buys Peanuts Stake, Strawberry Shortcake From Iconix

DHX Media has agreed to buy Iconix Brand Group’s entertainment segment – which includes Strawberry Shortcake and the company’s 80% stake in Peanuts Worldwide — for $345 million in a deal that will more than double DHX’s consumer products business, company executives told analysts.

The remainder of Peanuts Worldwide continues to be controlled by the family of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz. Iconix and the Schultz family bought the Peanuts from E.W. Scripts for $175 million in 2010. Iconix purchased Strawberry Shortcake from American Greetings for $105 million in 2015.

Iconix expects to record a $100 million gain on the transaction, which is expected to close in June, Iconix CFO David Jones said. Iconix will use proceeds from the sale to pay down $362 million of debt, leaving it with a remaining debt of about $840 million.

The sale ends several months of speculation about the future of Iconix’s entertainment business. In buying Peanuts, DHX gains a brand that generated $1.3 billion global retail sales in 2015, according to DHX. (Annual retail sales were about $2 billion when Iconix bought the brand in 2010, Iconix said at the time.) It also comes about a year after DHX and Iconix struck an agreement to co-develop and co-produce a new Strawberry Shortcake animated series, with DHX’s CPLG licensing agency getting the licensing rights.

The Peanuts brand has licensing programs in 196 countries and 1,120 licensees, including Hallmark Cards Inc., Universal Studios, Warner Bros. and Cedar Fair. Strawberry Shortcake has licensing deals in 120 countries with 305 licensees and has generated $4 billion in retail sales since 2002, DHX said. Iconix’s entertainment business generated $113 million in revenue in 2016, Jones said.

Under DHX, some licensing for both brands will shift from multiple agencies to CPLG, the company said. The move will reduce commissions in “select” territories, the company said. Some agencies will continue to represent the Peanuts and Strawberry Shortcake brands after the sale and decisions will be made on a “region by region” basis, a DHX spokesman said.

The acquisition also adds more than 340 hours of content – 195 for Peanuts and 145 for Strawberry Shortcake — to DHX’s 450-title media library and sets the stage for potential distribution of the programming via the company’s WildBrain YouTube channel as well as mobile and streaming services. The Peanuts brand received silver screen treatment with Twentieth Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios’ The Peanuts Movie, which grossed nearly $250 globally in 2015.

Strawberry Shortcake has 14 mobile apps. DHX also will develop short-form programming for both brands and new series to appeal to a “broader audience,” the company said.

The Peanuts and Strawberry Shortcake will join a DHX portfolio that includes Teletubbies, Yo Gabba Gabba, Caillou, In the Night Garden and Inspector Gadget.

Iconix’s sale of the entertainment business is the most recent of several deals struck since John Haugh was named CEO a year ago, replacing interim CEO Peter Cuneo. Iconix has since sold the Sharper Image and Bagley Mischka brands in sharpening its focus on the activewear, fashion and home categories.

Following the sale, Iconix will have 28 brands, down from 35 at its peak. Haugh hinted at selling other brands that don’t meet revenue targets.

“We need to make sure that those brands we have earn their keep” said Haugh, in noting that there are a “handful” of additional brands under review.

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