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Team momentum weakened by 2002′s executive exodus

ASwe began to take a look back at this year's biggest achievements for our annual Kids Entertainment Elite report, it struck me that the greatest asset that someone can have in this business - and it's really the quintessential element that's behind every 2002 success story - is a strong team of skilled, experienced, creative people. Companies at the top of their game recognize this basic need and spend a lot of time and money both recruiting the right talent and keeping them happy and motivated.
November 22, 2002

ASwe began to take a look back at this year’s biggest achievements for our annual Kids Entertainment Elite report, it struck me that the greatest asset that someone can have in this business – and it’s really the quintessential element that’s behind every 2002 success story – is a strong team of skilled, experienced, creative people. Companies at the top of their game recognize this basic need and spend a lot of time and money both recruiting the right talent and keeping them happy and motivated.

Of course, this is much easier to do when the market is in growth mode and there’s budgetary room to support the kind of development and exploratory activities that make folks feel challenged and fulfilled. But this past year has been all about restriction and caution – especially for companies that are accountable to risk-averse shareholders and owners – and it has taken its toll on some of the best creative teams in the business.

It seems like every week brings news of another departure. To name just a few: Canadian toonco Nelvana has now said goodbye to all three of its founders; TV-Loonland has lost both John Bullivant and Ken Olshansky this year; the entire Pepper’s Ghost creative team (Richard Morss, Roberta Kurtz and Alistair McIlwain) exited to form Banjax; and Fox Kids Europe will have to do without the guiding hand of Ynon Kreiz, who’s stepping down from his chairman and CEO position at the end of the year.

There’s nothing worse than the loss of momentum that can plague a team that’s lost a key member, and no one knows that better than CBBC’s head of acquisitions and co-productions Theresa Plummer-Andrews, who pegs staying focused in the wake of Nigel Pickard’s departure from the channel in January as her team’s biggest challenge next year. It will be equally interesting to see how HIT Entertainment, which conducted between 78% and 80% of its business in the U.S. this past year, copes with losing key State-side consumer products exec Holly Stein.

The good news about the mass executive exodus is that nearly all of the past year’s departees have opted to stay in the kids business, with many joining smaller companies or starting their own studios. And while it will take a while for these new teams to gel, this shift will ultimately strengthen the independent substrate of the industry, which has given rise to such breakout hits as Teletubbies and Barney.

In the midst of all this turmoil, I feel doubly lucky to work with such a dedicated and steadfast editorial team, and I’d like to announce a couple of well-deserved promotions. Seasoned reporter Simon Ashdown, who’s been covering our Retail beat for the past five years, will now take on the News Monitor and Production, Programming & Distribution sections as News Editor. Meanwhile, our take-charge Special Reports Editor Amanda Burgess will segue into a broader role as Assistant Editor, continuing to helm the Licensing section at the same time. And joining the team next month as Senior Writer in charge of the Retail beat will be Nancy Lees, a veteran West Coast business reporter with a penchant for all things kid.

Congrats to all those who’ve made a move this year, and here’s to building even stronger teams in the new year!

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