Nearly two decades after billionaire Haim Saban made his fortune with help from a group of crime-fighting teens and some digital monsters, his Saban Brands is once again calling on Power Rangers and Digimon to help re-create his success with a new generation of children.

But this time around, he’ll have the forces of the online world and the changing children’s TV landscape also to contend with.

Saban Brands, the brand management arm of Century City’s Saban Capital Group Inc., announced last week its acquisition of Japanese anime franchise “Digimon.” It’s the latest step in the company’s four-year buildup of its portfolio.

Elie Dekel, president of Saban Brands, said the digital world of “Digimon” should resonate with today’s web-savvy children.

“When ‘Digimon’ was introduced to kids in the late ’90s, kids didn’t really know much about digital,” he said. “Today, it is the world they live in. We see a tremendous opportunity for the property to be introduced in an environment where it’s finally come of age.”

Saban first made American hits out of the Japanese franchises in the 1990s. Their success helped establish his fortune. This year he ranked No. 8, with a net worth of $3.35 billion, on the Business Journal’s Wealthiest Angelenos list.

He unloaded the properties in 2001 with the $5.3 billion sale, including assumption of debt, of Fox Family Worldwide Inc., which he co-owned with News Corp., to Walt Disney Co.

But in 2010, Saban Brands acquired “Power Rangers” back from Disney and rebooted the franchise, launching a Nickelodeon show in 2011. Since then, the company has purchased several brands such as Paul Frank, which is known for the character Julius the Monkey, and digital platforms, including kid-friendly Internet portal Zui.

The reacquisition of “Digimon” gives Saban Brands the rights to the franchise outside of Asia. The company will distribute the new series, “Digimon Fusion,” and its library of more than 250 old episodes through MarVista Entertainment, a Mar Vista distribution and production company.

Dekel, who has worked with Saban since the early 1990s, said the company’s familiarity with the “Power Rangers” and “Digimon” brands made them attractive acquisitions.

“When we have the personal history and track record with the brand, it certainly becomes more compelling,” he said. “In the case of ‘Digimon,’ it was a success for us and we believe it can be again.”

Saban Brands will announce specifics of the “Digimon” relaunch in the coming weeks, but Dekel said it will be the first brand to take advantage of Saban Brand’s new ecosystem of traditional and digital platforms.


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