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Jim Hill
Page 1 of 3

by Jim Hill (archives)
July 12, 2001
Jim Hill explains his recent absence from this website as well as offers an update on the status of the Disney - Muppet negotiations.

Back in the Saddle Again
Jim Hill explains his recent absence from this website as well as offers an update on the status of the Disney - Muppet negotiations.

Barry in Bakersfield writes:

Where you been, buddy? It's been more than 10 days since your last LaughingPlace.com column. You're not bailing on Doobie & Rebekah too, are you?

And what about all those stories you promised to write? Like that Disney - Muppet series?

My apologies to Barry -- as well as the rest of you LaughingPlace.com readers -- for not having filed a column for the last week or so. So where was I? Out west for a few days -- visiting with my lovely daughter, Alice and her mom, Michelle. I also got over to DCA one evening to see Disney's Electrical Parade in its new home. The crowds there (Yes, thanks to the DEP, Disney's California Adventure actually has crowds now. And it was really kind of weird to see all those formerly empty streets swarming with people) genuinely did seem to enjoy seeing the parade again -- no matter which Disney theme park it was being presented in.

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Disney's Electrical Parade at Disney's California Adventure

More importantly, during my brief stay in Southern California, I actually got to meet with a few LaughingPlace.com readers. Nice, gracious folks who were extremely generous both with their time as well as their insights on the Walt Disney Company. Thanks again, J, C & D. Don't worry. I'll definitely be making use of most of your story suggestions ...

And -- speaking of story suggestions -- what actually is going on with Disney & the Muppets merger right now? Well, folks, to put it bluntly, it looks like this particular game is definitely headed into extra innings.

Just a quick recap here for those of you who are joining us late: Almost two months ago, I did a story for LaughingPlace.com about how Disney was in the middle of a serious attempt to acquire Kermit & Co. again. Disneyana history buffs may recall that the Mouse made its first attempt to swallow the Jim Henson Company nearly 12 years ago. That unfortunately ended in a lot of ugly litigation, with the Henson family accusing Disney's lawyers of using extremely heavy handed tactics during the final phase of negotiations.

Well, late last year, the Muppets suddenly found themselves in need of a savior. EM.TV, the German entertainment consortium which had paid out $680 million to acquire the Jim Henson Company in February 2000, suddenly found itself in severe financial distress. The broadcast corporation had to raise a lot of cash pronto. The quickest way to do this? Sell off all unnecessary assets. Which evidently included Kermit &Co.

This is how the Muppets suddenly found themselves on the auction block late last fall. Among the major media operations that were supposedly circling the Jim Henson Company were Viacom, Time-Warner, HIT Entertainment as well as the Walt Disney Company. Wall Street insiders considered the Mouse to be the most likely candidate to snatch up the Henson operation, particularly given Disney CEO Michael Eisner's previous interest in acquiring the corporation. And it does appear that Disney at least made an initial offer on the company. It was widely reported in the financial press back in late April / early May that the Mouse had offered the Muppet's German owners at least $300 million to take the Jim Henson Company off their hands.

But after that ... There was this prolonged & profound silence.

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