Good Grief! ‘Peanuts’ Licensing Sold By E.W. Scripps

By: Mark Fitzgerald

The E.W. Scripps is selling the licensing rights to Peanuts, Snoopy, Dilbert and all the other characters in its United Media Licensing to Iconix Brand Group Inc. for $175 million, the Cincinnati-based media company announced Tuesday.

Scripps said Iconix — the fashion house of the Joe Boxer and London Fog brands formerly known as Candies — has formed a partnership with the family of Charles Schulz, whose creations represent the majority of United Media’s licensing business.

Iconix is buying 80% of United Media Licensing with the Schulz family owning the rest.

“We’re putting our characters in good hands at Iconix,” Scripps CEO Rich Boehne said in a statement. “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.”

Scripps announced two months ago that it had put its licensing business under strategic review.

Scripps still owns United Media’s syndication operation and will continue to syndicate comic strips and editorial features marketed through United Feature Syndicate and Newspaper Enterprise Association.

United Media Licensing works with more than 1,250 licensees in approximately 40 countries worldwide, generating annual sales of more than $2 billion.

The majority of licensing revenue is generated by products from the Peanuts comic strip, which Schulz created in 1950.
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.

New York-based Iconix said the deal is expected to generate about $75 million in royalty revenue annually.

“We believe Peanuts large global footprint and broad licensing relationships will also open up new doors for our existing portfolio of brands and future acquisitions,” Iconix Chief Executive Neil Cole said in a statement.

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