Exclusive: Peanuts, home of Snoopy and Charlie Brown, up for sale: sources
By Liana B. Baker and Jessica DiNapoli
(Reuters) - U.S. brand management company Iconix Brand Group Inc (ICON.O: Quote) is exploring a sale of its majority stake in Peanuts Worldwide LLC, which owns the rights to cartoon strip characters Snoopy and Charlie Brown, according to people familiar with the matter.
The move sent shares of Iconix up more than 5 percent. It comes three months after U.S. insurance company MetLife Inc (MET.N: Quote) dropped the Peanuts characters it had been using as mascots for more than 30 years - a blow to debt-burdened Iconix.
The characters, which include Lucy, Peppermint Patty and Pigpen, have attracted the interest of Chinese companies as well as other investors keen to snap up U.S. media and licensing assets, the people said this week.
Created by Charles Schulz and licensed in over 100 countries, the characters generate about $30 million in 12-month earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, the people added. They declined to comment on the expected deal valuation.
Besides Peanuts, Iconix is also looking to sell its Strawberry Shortcake brand, which is based on a character that rose to fame in the 1980s as a doll for young girls, the people said. They asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.
The New York-based company is working with investment bank Guggenheim Partners LLC on an auction process to sell the brands, the people added, cautioning that there was no certainty that any deal would occur.
Iconix did not respond to a request for comment, while Guggenheim declined to comment. Iconix shares jumped 5.2 percent at $10.36 on the news in New York on Tuesday afternoon, giving the company a market capitalization of close to $600 million.
While MetLife will stop flying blimps featuring Snoopy this year, Peanuts has agreements with brands such as chocolate maker Nestle SA (NESN.S: Quote), stationary company Hallmark Cards Inc, and retailer Zara, according to a regulatory filing by Iconix. Continued...