China Toy Fair


LIMA Reports Decline in Licensing Royalties as Licensing Expo Opens

According to the annual Licensing Industry Survey by the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA), brand owners collected nearly $5.2 billion in licensing royalty revenue in North America in 2009, down 8.7 percent from the year before. This marks the second year of decline; overall royalty revenues declined 5.6 percent in 2008.

In the survey, brand owners cited last year’s sluggish consumer spending, a conservative climate at retail, a longer decision-making cycle, and royalty pressure as reasons for the decline. However, brand owners were optimistic, reporting success in expanding their licensing business internationally in 2009. Licensors also reported a continued trend of more diversified retail distribution.

In 2009, the character segment, which produces 46 percent of licensing industry royalty revenues, declined 7.9 percent. Other major segments of the licensing industry include corporate trademarks/brands (17 percent), fashion (14 percent), and sports (13 percent).

The survey results were released at the opening session of the Licensing International Expo 2010. The numbers were derived from results of LIMA’s annual survey of companies that are directly involved in the licensing business, an examination of public financial documents, and interviews with licensing industry executives.

Transom Capital Group Acquires Uncle Milton

Los Angeles-based private equity firm Transom Capital Group has acquired Uncle Milton Industries, Inc. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“Toys have been a large part of my life, so it was important to me, personally, that the company find a partner who demonstrated a real commitment to the Uncle Milton legacy,” said Steve Levine, one of the owners of the company, in a press release. “Transom Capital was simply the right fit. They exhibited the same passion for the industry and quickly understood the key issues and dynamics that underlie the company’s success.”

Ken Firtel, managing director of Transom Capital, believes Uncle Milton is “a cornerstone acquisition” for its portfolio. “The founders, the Levine family, have safeguarded the company’s sterling reputation for over half a century by introducing fun and educational toys consistent with the brand’s focus. We believe that Transom Capital can add a level of operational sophistication that will improve its performance both from a top and bottom line perspective,” Firtel said.

Sherwood Partners served as an advisor to Uncle Milton during the transaction.

Walmart CEO Outlines Strategies for “Next Generation Walmart”

At Walmart’s annual shareholders meeting, president and CEO Mike Duke outlined four strategies for building the “Next Generation Walmart.”  He said Walmart is poised to deliver on Sam Walton’s vision of giving “the world an opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better life.”

The strategies are: (1) become a truly global company, (2) understand the business challenges that retailers will face and solve them, (3) play an even bigger leadership role on social issues that matter to its customers, and (4) keep its culture strong everywhere.

In order to be a more global company, Duke discussed the need to serve customers as a local store, share best practices, and leverage Walmart’s global supply chain. He stated that over the next five years Walmart will create 500,000 jobs around the world. Duke also discussed the importance on price transparency and low pricing, and being a company that stays strong globally.

The company also announced that its board of directors approved a new repurchase program that authorizes the company to repurchase $15 billion of its shares. This program replaces the previous $15 billion program, which was announced June 5, 2009, and had approximately $4.7 billion of remaining authorization. Under the program, repurchased shares are constructively retired and returned to unissued status.

Photo Credit: Huffington Post

Iconix Completes Peanuts Acquisition

Iconix Brand Group, Inc. has completed the acquisition of the Peanuts brand and related assets of United Media Licensing, a division of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., through a newly formed joint venture company, Peanuts Worldwide, LLC. The new company is 80 percent owned by Iconix and 20 percent owned by Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, managed by the Schulz family.

This deal changes the landscape of Iconix and moves the company beyond fashion. Consumer products outside of fashion now represent approximately one-third of the company’s overall revenue.

In addition to Peanuts, Iconix has acquired the licensing and character representation for a number of character brands, including Dilbert and Fancy Nancy.

The purchase price for the acquisition was $175 million. Iconix funded its portion of the purchase price with cash on its balance sheet.

Saban Capital Group Acquires Power Rangers from The Walt Disney Company

Saban Capital Group, Inc. has acquired the Power Rangers property from The Walt Disney Company, marking the franchise as the first property to be managed by newly established Saban Brands. Saban Brands was recently formed as a subsidiary of Saban Capital Group to manage and license entertainment properties and consumer brands throughout the world.

The acquisition represents the return of the global franchise to its original developer, Haim Saban, who introduced the first Power Rangers series in 1993. The deal includes worldwide rights to the brand, as well as the more than 700 episodes produced over 17 years.

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K’NEX Donates Portion of Holiday Sales to Philadelphia Children’s Hospital

On April 6, K’NEX donated more than $20,000 to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), a donation that was the result of the company’s holiday fundraiser last year. During last November and December, K’NEX pledged to donate 10 percent of KNEX.com sales during those months to The Cancer Center at CHOP. The company also accepted additional donations through its website.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has been ranked No. 1 for pediatric cancer care by U.S. News and World Report and is the nation’s largest provider of services for pediatric cancer patients. Donations are helping CHOP researchers find the best non-invasive treatments and, ultimately, cures for every type of childhood cancer.

CHOP develops new therapies to treat pediatric leukemia and other blood disorders, brain tumors, sarcomas, retinoblastoma, and neuroblastoma.

The Toy Book Toy Report 4/13/2010

Read The Toy Book’s Toy Report for this week! (4/13/10)

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Buys Minority Stake in Munchkin

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (“Teachers’”) has acquired a significant minority stake of common stock in Munchkin, Inc. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

This latest transaction follows Munchkin’s January acquisition of Lindam, a UK manufacturer of safety gates and safety accessories, adding to Munchkin’s existing portfolio of infant products and pet products through its Bamboo division.

Munchkin was established in 1991 and still privately held.

POOF-Slinky Acquires Cadaco

POOF-Slinky has acquired the assets of Cadaco, a division of Rapid Displays in Chicago. Cadaco manufactures the Ryan Oakes Magic line, the eco-friendly activity and construction line EnviroBLOX, and a line of board games such as Tripoley, among other products.

“We are pleased to be able to add the Cadaco product lines to our Ideal and POOF Brands,” said Ray Dallavecchia, Jr., president & CEO of POOF, in a press release.

Hobby Store Game Sales Up

Game sales in hobby stores were up from 5 to 10 percent in 2009 despite the worst economy in generations, according to a report in the new issue of Internal Correspondence. The growth was driven by a resurgence in Magic: The Gathering sales and by board game sales up by double-digit percentages. Yu-Gi-Oh! and the return of HeroClix also helped support improved sales. Non-collectible miniature sales were slightly down, and RPG sales were down approximately 10 percent in 2009.