DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg reassured staffers Thursday that the best days were ahead of the company behind “Shrek” and “Madagascar” following news that Comcast’s NBCUniversal has a deal in place to acquire the studio.
“The next chapter of our company’s historic journey begins today, and as I’ve said many times, there is no doubt that the best days for DreamWorks lie ahead,” Katzenberg told an all-hands meeting at the company’s Glendale, Calif., headquarters.
“This was not a deal that we needed to do, but it’s the deal I’d always hoped would come along,” he added. “Not only are we passing the baton to a company that understands and values our brand, but it’s also a place that will nurture and grow our businesses to their fullest potential.”
Comcast is shelling out $4.1 billion in cash and debt assumption to buy DreamWorks Animation, hoping to become one of the major forces in children’s entertainment. It will keep the company as an independent brand, which it hopes will augment its other in-house animation operation, Illumination, the maker of “Despicable Me.” Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Jeff Shell and Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley both attended the meeting.
“I rest easy in knowing that the house of dreams we’ve spent the past two decades building together – the stories, the characters, the joy and the laughter – has found the best possible home; a home where its future is secure and its legacy is embraced,” Katzenberg told staffers.
If regulators approve the deal, Katzenberg will be named chairman of a new entity dubbed DreamWorks New Media, comprising the company’s ownership stakes in AwesomenessTV and Nova. He will also be a consultant to NBCUniversal, but will not be in charge of the film and television operations. There’s also a sizable payout. Katzenberg could make more than $400 million from his stake in the company, according to regulatory filings.
Over its more than two decades as an independent studio, DreamWorks Animation had blockbuster hits such as “Shrek” and film failures such as “Turbo,” that led to layoffs and shook the company to its core. In reflecting on the studio’s legacy Thursday, Katzenberg chose to emphasize the better moments.
“Our goals were ambitious in a way that no business plan or investment strategy could ever express,” he said. “We wanted to build a place that created laughter and inspired children to dream bigger than ever before. Our imprint on the hearts of children everywhere – not to mention the entertainment industry – is unmistakable and indelible.”