Los Angeles media billionaire Haim Saban and former Walt Disney Co. chief executive Officer Michael Eisner reportedly are among those considering a bid for the iconic children’s characters Barney the dinosaur and Thomas the Tank Engine.
Sources told Bloomberg News they are among parties considering bids for HIT Entertainment Ltd., which holds the rights for Barney and Thomas the Tank character featured in animated films, toys and other products. HIT also owns the characters Bob the Builder.
Walt Disney Co., Mattel Inc., Viacom Inc. and Hasbro Inc. reportedly also have also looked at the properties. Eisner reportedly is working with buyout firm Madison Dearborn Partners LLC on his bid, Saban, who owns the Power Rangers franchise and who set up a separate branding business last year, is in discussions about the assets already.
Apax Partners LLP, HIT’s London-based private equity owner, is said to be seeking $1 billion for the company, but most likely will get bids in the neighborhood of $500 million, the sources said. Apax acquired HIT for $789 million in 2005, but has since significantly written down its investment as products featuring the characters face increasing competition in the pre-school market.
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