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Hit man on board

Dyke's taking part-time job as chairman

HOLLYWOOD — Greg Dyke, former director general of the BBC, has been appointed nonexecutive chairman of “Bob the Builder” firm Hit Entertainment.

He will work with Bruce Steinberg, the former head of Fox Kids Europe, who is coming on board as CEO.

Dyke already has links to Hit. He is an adviser to Apax Partners, the private equity group that Tuesday finalized its £484 million ($886.4 million) takeover of the children’s programmer.

The part-time position is Dyke’s first corporate post since he ankled the BBC in January 2004 after a spat between the pubcaster and the government over coverage of the Iraq war.

Since then, the outspoken Dyke has rarely been out of the headlines. He has been linked to various TV ventures, including a buyout of commercial broadcaster ITV and the chairmanship of reality giant Endemol.

His name is still linked to the BBC — Apax is bidding for the BBC Broadcast unit that provides content distribution services, including electronic program guides, subtitling and video-on-demand.

Hit is the fourth-biggest children’s character licenser in the world, with more than 1,000 hours of kids programming including “Barney” and “Thomas the Tank Engine,” plus animation studios in the U.K. and U.S.

The sale marks the end of an era for founder Peter Orton, who is stepping down as chairman with a personal fortune estimated at $66 million.

Apax takes charge of a company about to launch its first preschool pay channel this fall in the U.S. — a joint venture with Comcast, Sesame Workshop and PBS.

However, the last few years have been rocky for the children’s licenser. Its problems started when Orton took off two years to battle cancer, with Rob Lawes taking over as chief exec.

Wal-Mart Stores, Hit’s biggest customer, cut shelf space for kids’ products last year, and a profit warning set alarm bells ringing. By October Lawes was out and Orton was back at the helm.

He appointed former U.K. cable company topper Charles Burdick as CEO last fall. He is stepping down to make way for the new Apax management team.

Shares of Hit were delisted from the London Stock Exchange after Apax completed the purchase.

(Bloomberg contributed to this report.)

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