Germany's EM.TV looking to sell Muppet creator, Jim Henson Co.

Tuesday, March 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Kermit the Frog and his Jim Henson Co. creators could be on the selling block again, just a year after the Muppets were snapped up by German entertainment company EM.TV.

EM.TV spokeswoman Marion Moormann said Tuesday that the company was considering the sale as part of a restructuring program, but so far ``no final decisions have been made.''

EM.TV, which bought the Jim Henson Co. and rights to the Muppets in Feb. 2000 for $680 million in cash and stock, has been pummeled with financial problems. Once a star among German media stocks, its shares have plummeted about 90 percent since late last year.

The move to lighten the financial burden by selling the Jim Henson Co. is part of an overhaul package agreed upon with German broadcaster Kirch Group, which gave EM.TV a cash bailout in exchange for a 25 percent equity stake.

EM.TV overstretched itself last March when it paid $1.6 billion for a 50 percent stake in the holding company that runs Formula One auto racing. Last month, it increased that stake to 75 percent in a $987 million deal with financing secured through Kirch.

Moormann would not comment on potential buyers for the Jim Henson Co., but the German business daily Handelsblatt reported that interested firms include the Walt Disney Co. and the Viacom subsidiary Nickelodeon.

It reported that those companies are unwilling to pay more than $250 million for the Muppets.