Artisan Entertainment is poised to pitch a last-minute bid for Harvey Entertainment, effectively trumping an all-but-signed offer made last month by an investor group led by Roger Burlage, Michael Burns, Paul Guez, Ken Slutsky and The Kushner-Locke Company. At press time, the amount of Artisan’s offer was unknown, but pundits are speculating that it would likely be around US$32 million (as opposed to Burlage et al.’s. offer of US$11.5 million in cash and US$5.5 million in common stock in Kushner-Locke). Harvey was put on the auction block after a disastrous 1998 financial finish-the company lost US$5.9 million in fourth quarter and US$11.2 million for the year.
Rick Mischel, who has been named president and co-CEO of Harvey, plans to lead the company’s new management team in building a library of original product beyond the 65 half hours of existing animation. ‘The problem with the company in the past was that they had the characters, but didn’t have the equity to produce their own series,’ says Mischel. By licensing out characters such as Casper the Friendly Ghost to third-party producers, Mischel says Harvey lost out on substantial revenue streams. ‘The US$7 million worth of equity that has just been put into the company to fund entertainment product will be a big advantage,’ says Mischel. ‘We can have a much more active role in the distribution of that product.’
Mischel views Harvey’s 3,000-plus character cache (mined from over 40 years of comic book publishing) as a treasure trove for development in direct-to-video, TV and feature film projects for all ages. Beyond animation, he plans to pitch studios on possible live-action movies, and to undertake an aggressive licensing and merchandising program incorporating outside properties.
Newly named Harvey co-CEO Roger Burlage formerly worked with Mischel at Live Entertainment, where the two set up the company’s Family Home Entertainment division before it was acquired by Artisan Entertainment.