German company sells Muppets maker company to founder's family

Thursday, May 8th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The family of Muppet creator Jim Henson has succeeded in a last-minute bid to repurchase the company they sold to a German media firm in 2000.

The Henson family decided only two weeks ago to bid for The Jim Henson Co., which they will buy for a fraction of what Munich-based EM.TV paid for it, according to Brian Henson.

Munich-based EM.TV bought the company and rights to such Muppet characters as Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy in February 2000 for $680 million in cash and stock.

But in May 2001, it said it was considering selling the Los Angeles-based firm. It has since sold some Henson assets, including the ``Sesame Street'' rights, for about $200 million.

On Wednesday, it said it was selling the rest of Henson for $78 million in cash and was keeping the $11 million that the Henson operation had on hand.

``The family has been watching on the sidelines, sadly watching, as EM.TV collapsed and never even started the plan they were going to do and then painfully watching as the company was put back on the market,'' Henson said in an interview.

Other companies thought to have made bids included The Walt Disney Co. Disney planned to buy Henson at least once before, but that deal fell apart shortly after Jim Henson's death in 1990.

Jim Henson founded his self-named company in 1958, inventing the term ``muppet'' as a cross between the words marionette and puppet.

The buyers include five Henson children: Brian, a brother and three sisters. The assets they bought include The Muppets, The Muppet Babies, The Fraggles, The Hoobs, Farscape, and Bear in the Big Blue House.

The sale agreement still requires approval by EM.TV shareholders. EM.TV's annual general meeting is scheduled for July 20.