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DreamWorks to buy Classic for $155m

DreamWorks Animation (DWA) will pay US$155m to buy Casper the Friendly Ghost brand owner Classic Media.

Casper's Scare School

Casper's Scare School

Californian studio DWA has been seeking a new stream of characters around which to create TV and feature films.

It today announced a multimillion-dollar takeover of New York-based Classic, which also counts Where’s Wally? (Where’s Waldo?), Noddy, Lassie and The Lone Ranger among its brands.

The deal will see DWA pay Classic’s owner Boomerang Media Holdings, part of Chicago private equity group GTCR, US$155m in cash. The move gives the studio a total of 450 filmed entertainment titles and 6,100 episodes of animated and live-action programming, including Christmas specials featuring Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus.

Classic’s other assets include Big Idea Entertainment, the prodco behind Christian-themed toon series VeggieTales; comic book library Golden Books; and Olivia and Noddy, both of which it bought from Chorion earlier this year. It employs about 80 staff in offices in New York, London and Nashville.

“Classic Media brings a large and diverse collection of characters and branded assets that is extremely complementary to DreamWorks Animation’s franchise business, and we plan to leverage it across our motion picture, television, home entertainment, consumer products, digital, theme park and live entertainment channels,” said DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Classic and DWA were already working on one project together, a 3D animated feature film based on the Mr Peabody & Sherman franchise, which is due to arrive in cinemas on Christmas Day 2013.

Classic co-founders Eric Ellenbogen and John Englelman will remain with the company after the deal is completed. They, along with GTCR, reacquired the company in its current form in 2009 by taking over Entertainment Rights, which had bought Classic three years before.

Classic posted an operating profit of US$19.2m for the year to February 29, on net revenue of US$82.2m. The acquisition would combine “our hit-driven business with Classic Media’s extensive and sustainable library revenue stream,” according to DWA’s chief financial officer Lew Coleman.

DWA is behind a string of hit animated feature films such as Shrek, Madagascar and How to Train Your Dragon. It has also produced TV series for the likes of Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, TBS and Fox.

The deal is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to go through before September 30. JPMorgan advised DWA, while Jefferies & Company did the same for Classic.

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