Kid programming companies merge

A $195 million deal to acquire the Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears kids properties from American Greetings has cleared the way for Canadian animation company Cookie Jar Entertainment to merge with DIC Entertainment Holdings.

Privately held Cookie Jar announced last month its intention to acquire publicly traded DIC, merging two of the biggest independent kids programming and merchandising shops. But those efforts were stalled when American Greetings obtained an injunction in a Cleveland court.

Since the greeting card company had a contract to license Strawberry Shortcake to DIC, it successfully argued that it had the right to sign off on the merger.

With the sale of its properties to Cookie Jar, American Greetings will now shift sides and become a licensee of Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears for so-called social expressions merchandise, a category that includes greeting cards, party goods and holiday ornaments.

For its part, pending the acquisition of financing, Cookie Jar will now own outright two properties that have generated more than $5 billion combined in merch sales since being re-introduced in 2002.

“These are two of the most valued preschool girls properties on earth,” said Toper Taylor, president and chief operating officer for Cookie Jar.

With the merger, Cookie Jar will fold its Los Angeles operations into DIC’s Burbank facility. According to Taylor, DIC chairman-chief exec Andy Heyward will stay on as “the rainmaker,” while DIC prexy- chief operating officer Jeff Edell will ankle. Taylor will remain in his post in Burbank, and company CEO Michael Hirsh will remain in his chair at the company’s Toronto HQ.

With Cookie Jar and DIC now facing conglom-level kidvid competition from the likes of Disney, Viacom and Warner Bros., merging into a unit “with a powerful library with extraordinary brands in a well-financed company is the only way to succeed as an independent,” Taylor said.

He also noted complimentary aspects to the merger.

“Cookie Jar has been extraordinarily successful as a creative entertainment company over the last five years,” Taylor explained, noting a range of successful kids series for Cookie Jar that includes everything from “The Doodlebops” on the Disney Channel to “Johnny Test” on the Cartoon Network. “But we’ve been underperforming on the consumer products side, while DIC has been extraordinarily successful with consumer products but has been weak on the entertainment side.”

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