E.W. Scripps Company has found a buyer for the United Media Licensing business that it put up for sale in February. Iconix Brand Group is buying the business, which is powered primarily by licensing the “Peanuts” comic characters, for $175 million.
In conjunction with the transaction, Iconix has formed a partnership with the family of the late Charles Schulz, who created the beloved Peanuts characters. The announcement said Peanuts licensing represents the majority of United Media’s licensing business.
The all-cash transaction is expected to close by the end of the second quarter, Scripps said.
United Media Licensing is one of the largest independent licensing agencies in the world, representing brands and creative content in the development and management of licensed merchandise and promotional programs. United Media works with more than 1,250 licensees in approximately 40 countries. United Media-licensed merchandise generates annual retail sales of more than $2 billion, with nearly 20,000 new products approved each year. The majority of licensing revenue is generated by products associated with the characters of the Peanuts comic strip, which Scripps brought to market in 1950.
New York-based Iconix Brand Group, formerly known as Candie’s, is a brand management company that engages in licensing and marketing for a portfolio of owned consumer brands, including Candie’s, Bongo, Badgley Mischka, Joe Boxer, Rampage, Mudd, London Fog, Mossimo, Ocean Pacific/OP, Danskin, Rocawear, Cannon, Royal Velvet, Fieldcrest, Charisma, Starter, and Waverly. Iconix Brand Group, through its joint ventures, also owns Artful Dodger, Ed Hardy, Ecko, and Zoo York brands. It licenses its brands directly to retailers, wholesalers, and suppliers for use across a range of product categories.
“We’re putting our characters in good hands at Iconix. The Peanuts characters have been our entertaining co-workers and the Schulz family has been our trusted partner for nearly 60 years. But this is the right move for all involved as we go our separate ways in recognition of changing times and new strategies. Parting with our licensing operations was a difficult decision, but it allows Scripps to advance our focus on being an innovative leader in the rapidly evolving news industry,” said Scripps CEO Rich Boehne.
Scripps provided no immediate indication of how it would deploy the after-tax proceeds from the sale. The company had $10.4 million of bank debt on its balance sheet as of March 31, 2010.
Scripps still owns United Media’s syndication operation and will continue to syndicate comic strips and editorial features that are developed and marketed worldwide through United Feature Syndicate and Newspaper Enterprise Association. Its primary businesses are its 10 television stations, daily and community newspapers in 13 markets and their related websites.