Disney to buy the Muppets

Walt Disney said on Tuesday it will buy the Muppets characters, including Kermit, Miss Piggy and others, as well as the Bear in the Big Blue House franchise from The Jim Henson Company.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The deal culminates a decades-long pursuit of the Muppets by Disney, which came close to acquiring the characters in 1990. The deal fell apart shortly after the death of company founder Jim Henson.

The company then was bought by German media company EM.TV, which sold it back to the Henson family last year.

The deal includes a four-year consulting arrangement with Jim Henson to provide strategic advice on the use of the characters and a three-year production deal to develop movies, television shows and other projects using the characters.

The Jim Henson Company will retain its Creature Shop, which builds the puppet characters, as well as the rights to its film and television library, including Fraggle Rock and Farscape, among others.

The announcement is a much-needed boost for Disney, which has been under attack for weeks from ex-board members and is the subject of a hostile takeover bid from cable television giant Comcast.

It is also a coup for Disney chief executive Michael Eisner, who has been attacked by some who claim he lacks management skills.

“Michael Eisner’s long-standing passion and respect for the Muppets gives me and my family even more confidence in Disney as a partner,” said Brian Henson, who with his sister Lisa is co-chair and co-chief executive officer of The Jim Henson Company. - Sapa-AP

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