Peanuts licensing business may be for sale

lucy for saleE&P reports that E.W. Scripps, the parent company of comic strip syndicate United Media, is considering spinning off their licensing business, United Media Licensing, which handles Peanuts, Dilbert, and other comic strip giants. Although these brands continue to be recognized worldwide, Scripps licensing revenues fell 15% in 4Q 2009, to $26.4 million.

Scripps President and CEO Rich Boehne said the process of exploring alternatives is just that, an exploration.

“We recognize that ‘exploring strategic options’ often is a euphemism for ‘sale,’ but this truly is an exercise to determine if these properties would be more valuable with another owner,” he said in a statement. “If not, we’ll continue to nurture the characters as we have for decades.”

Scripps is exploring the possibility of a sale becauase of recent interest and activity in the market for character-based properties, he said.


A press release with Scripps’ latest financials can be found here. Scripps is the kind of old-timey media conglomerate whose portfolio of newspapers and TV stations looked unassailable in the pre-internet era, but is looking very forlorn these days — newspaper advertising alone fell 20 percent last year. As one of the bright spots — despite the decline last year — selling United Media Licensing is obviously a way to raise capital in these continuing parlous times. Boehne’s comment reveals that interest continues to be high in strong comics brands, despite problems in other segments.

Comments

  1. …so their solution to gain increased profitability may be to sell off the ONE area, licensing IP, which, regardless of market flux, has real long-term income potential?

    Even if they’re only looking for a more dynamic partner to handle this part of the business, this move suggests that this company is really behind the curve of being able to function in the 21st century.

    Very sad.

  2. Synsidar says:

    …so their solution to gain increased profitability may be to sell off the ONE area, licensing IP, which, regardless of market flux, has real long-term income potential?

    It’s not uncommon for corporations to sell units that they believe could fetch higher prices at a given date than they would later. Scripps’ television operations fared much better than the newspapers did in the 4th quarter. And a sale of United Media isn’t the only option being considered:

    “Scripps is proud to have United Media Licensing in its portfolio, but the recent interest and activity in the market for character-based properties make this an appropriate time to determine if more long-term value will be created for our shareholders by continuing to operate the business or finding another alternative. We recognize that ‘exploring strategic options’ often is a euphemism for ‘sale,’ but this truly is an exercise to determine if these properties would be more valuable with another owner. If not, we’ll continue to nurture the characters as we have for decades,” said Boehne.

    Indeed, a sale is not the only option being explored. The company also mentioned a joint venture involving all or part of United Media as a posibility. And, of course, “another option is to keep operating the business if the exploratory process leads management to determine that more long-term value can be created for company shareholders by retaining the property,” the announcement noted.

  3. I totally get that, and that much of this is standard business practice, especially when a company is keeping an eye on their perceived core business.

    But to me, and this is definitely an “if I were in their shoes” situation, it’s like this.

    I’m in a really big boat with lots of holes in it; it’s slowly sinking, and my traditional business practice is creating more holes, instead of plugging the ones that are there.

    On my big boat, I have this really nifty little sloop; it may be made of wood, but it’s been well-cared for, doesn’t have a leak in it, still sails beautifully, and I have a chance of making it to land, if/when the bigger boat sinks.

    Instead, I sell this sloop for a wad of cash, and use that cash to try to plug as many of the big boat’s holes as possible…but we all know this is really a temporary measure, because the big boat is going down, this time without a sloop to literally help bail it out.

    Yes, I saw that if they don’t get the deal they want/that makes sense, they’ll keep the sloop. But if they do, they’ll simply get more plugs that are bound to run out.

    This IS the dying newspaper business we’re talking about, the 21st century equivalent of the 20th century buggy whip.

    It seems to me that if the company REALLY wants to keep their big boat afloat, they should be looking to transition to more sloops, and salvage what they can from the big boat, not the other way around.

    But again, it has everything to do with their perception of their core business.

    Just more thoughts.

    –Lee

  4. jacob lyon goddard says:

    so, they’re thinking about selling a piece of western civilization that will be studied for thousands of years so they can keep the business going for another decade or two?

  5. I’ve worked with United Media Media Lic group several times, and have always been so impressed with them.

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