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Troubled Kratky Film sacks two top execs

Knoflicek, Bird fired as co. faces bankruptcy

PRAGUE — Longtime Kratky Film CEO Jan Knoflicek has been fired after months of speculation about the future of the cash-strapped studio.

Also sacked was chief financial officer Ian Bird. Kratky’s chairman of the board Karel Hajek and deputy chair Jiri Porubsky have taken over the top spots. More firings are anticipated.

Majority shareholder Cesky Pojistovna (Czech Insurance) promised to refinance the company to the tune of 150 million crowns ($4.8 million) conditional on the departure of the two execs. The insurance firm had reneged on a previous commitment to invest $7.4 million in the company last fall.

Bankruptcy looming

Kratky’s debt, accumulated since it was privatized in 1990, was estimated to be as much as $15 million. Penalty payments on its bank loan were growing at $300,000 per month. Two months ago bankruptcy proceedings were initiated, as required under Czech law.

According to employees, the new managers have promised to pay back wages due since the beginning of the year. The refinancing also appears to end speculation that the various components of the studio will be liquidated. The Kratky Film library, containing an estimated 10,000 titles (including 1,000 animated films), has been a hotly sought-after commodity.

Knoflicek, who spent nearly all of his 27-year career at Kratky Film, was among the first people to take advantage of the country’s emerging privatization laws. His foresight in securing the studio as well as its huge library (virtually the entire scope of the nation’s documentaries and newsreels for 40 years, as well as most of its celebrated animated films) earned him enmity among the film community. Once the largest producer in the country, Kratky has been relatively inactive lately. However, its two animated studios, Jiri Trnka and Bratri v Tricku, have been kept busy with foreign projects that utilize the skills of their 200 employees.