Hirsh ankles ailing Nelvana

No explanation given for founder's departure

This article was corrected on Oct. 29, 2002.

MONTREAL — Nelvana founder Michael Hirsh announced Wednesday that he is stepping down as CEO of the Canuck animation producer, as parent company Corus Entertainment reported a C$200 million ($127 million) writedown on the toon house.

Corus — one of the country’s leading broadcasters — posted a fourth-quarter loss of $120 million on Wednesday, compared with a loss of $1.2 million a year earlier.

No official explanation was provided for Hirsh’s departure and Corus said it would announce executive appointments in the coming weeks.

Co-founder exodus

Hirsh is the last of the three founders to ankle the company since it was acquired two years ago by Corus for $377 million. Last fall, co-CEO Patrick Loubert and senior executive veepee Clive Smith, who started the company in Toronto with Hirsh in 1971, left.

This July, Corus cut 65 production jobs at the studio, about 10% of overall staff. At the time, Nelvana execs blamed the cuts on dropping license fees, the consolidation in the U.S. TV market that reduced the number of sales opportunities and problems in Germany (a frequent co-production partner for Nelvana).

Hirsh will remain with Nelvana as an adviser.

‘Extremely proud’

“I am extremely proud of our many achievements and of the treasure-trove of valuable character rights that have helped make Nelvana the world’s leading independent animation producer,” Hirsh said.

Nelvana’s shows include “Medabots” and “Braceface.”

The $127 million noncash pretax writedown on Nelvana includes $25 million designated as a writedown on the library, and $102 million for goodwill and other intangibles.

Corus also announced that Nelvana will produce a lot less animation in the future. This past year, Nelvana produced 252 half-hour episodes and Corus plans to cut back to 150 this year. This will lower the operating earnings of the company but will eliminate the need for Corus to pump cash into the division.

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