Mr Men to meet Mr Break-up

Chorion, owner of such children's franchises as Mr Men and Noddy, is to be broken up and sold after succumbing to debts of £70m. Remember kids: things don't always have a happy ending...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 05 Feb 2016
It’s been a year of harsh lessons for the company: it breached its banking covenants earlier this year and hit the brink of administration, and has now failed in its attempts to renegotiate banking deals to alleviate the debt. Last week chairman Lord Alli and his deputy, William Astor, resigned as a result. That’s the sort of mess that even Mr Impossible couldn’t magic himself out of in the current economic climate.

Indeed, it just shows that no matter how wholesome the product, it’s hard to escape the world’s sobering financial realities. But perhaps this experience will inspire the creation of a new line of kids’ stories more fitting to the times: will children soon be reading about Mr Thrifty? How about the jolly japery of Noddy Debates Selling Off Toyland’s Assets to Private Equity…

Alli and Astor would have an interesting take on that: they were part of a four-strong management team that sold Chorion to 3i in 2006 for £111m. While the private equity group still owns it, the banks are now in charge, and Chorion’s three senior lenders – Bank of Ireland, GE Capital and Lloyds – want the business to be broken up and sold.

As to who’d buy it? Chorion is sitting on quite a well-loved collection of assets, which also includes Paddington Bear, Enid Blyton's Famous Five, the estate of writer Raymond Chandler and The World of Beatrix Potter – so they can expect a flurry of interest. Disney, Hasbro, Viacom and children's entertainment mogul Haim Saban and even Peppa Pig owner Entertainment One have all been mooted as potential suitors.

Meanwhile Alli is thought to have been tapping up private equity buyers to take over. As to whether Noddy would approve, we’ll have to wait to read that.

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