The British children’s rights company, whose kids’ properties include the Nick Jr show Olivia, is set to bid for Thomas the Tank Engine. The bidding process has yet to begin though. Apax Partners, the private equity company which hopes to sell Thomas by spring 2011, wants $700 million (£440 million) for Thomas, according to the Daily Telegraph. That’s double what Apax paid for the children’s property back in 2005, I’m told. When Apax last tried to sell Thomas to Disney it wanted $800 million for the little engine, one insider tells me. Disney walked away. Other potential buyers include Disney (again) or a big independent TV producer/distributor like Fremantle, which wants to get into the children’s TV market.
UPDATE: Cinetic, the U.S. film financier, and talent agency UTA are currently raising money for a Thomas the Tank Engine movie. Josh Klausner, writer of Shrek the Third, has written the latest draft of the screenplay. Now Apax Partners, the private equity company which hopes to sell Thomas the Tank Engine by spring 2011, wants to get hundreds of millions for the kiddie property. But from whom?
Potential buyers include Disney or a big independent TV producer/distributor like Fremantle, which intends to enter children’s television. Neither Viacom/Nickelodeon, which owns Spongebob Squarepants, nor Turner/Cartoon Network are thought to be keen on buying Thomas; the famous blue engine would not be a good fit for their edgier, older-skewing programming. “As a children’s property, Thomas is running out of steam,” one insider tells me.
But back when Apax last tried to sell Thomas to Disney in 2005, Apax wanted $800M for Thomas, says a source familiar with negotiations. Disney walked away. Since then Disney has started airing the upstart Chuggington TV show, created by former executives at HIT Entertainment, the children’s character company which Apax bought in 2005.
HIT Entertainment stresses that Thomas is still the #1 pre-school brand in the U.S., UK, Australia, and Germany. It currently generates $100 million a year in revenue, compared with less than $50M in 2004. Thomas remains the best performing part of HIT’s portfolio, which includes Barney the Dinosaur and Bob the Builder. Fisher Price recently took over selling the toy range.
Bank of …