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With Cinar in hand, Hirsh hopes to build an animation empire

The purchase of Canadian prodco Cinar by industry vets Michael Hirsh and Toper Taylor is just the first stage in a plan for total market domination, according to Hirsh. The pair, in partnership with TD Capital Canadian Private Equity Partners, recently signed a definitive agreement to buy the Montreal-based company for US$143.9 million, which includes terms of settlement for outstanding litigation.
December 1, 2003

The purchase of Canadian prodco Cinar by industry vets Michael Hirsh and Toper Taylor is just the first stage in a plan for total market domination, according to Hirsh. The pair, in partnership with TD Capital Canadian Private Equity Partners, recently signed a definitive agreement to buy the Montreal-based company for US$143.9 million, which includes terms of settlement for outstanding litigation.

But before the dust has a chance to settle, Hirsh and Taylor will be scouting for further acquisitions, particularly companies that will increase Cinar’s distribution reach.

‘We hope to make Cinar the leader in the kids entertainment category, and acquisitions are a big part of that strategy,’ says Hirsh. ‘We’ll be putting a lot of emphasis on attracting new properties and new series, and build up the division over a three-year-period.’

Though the entertainment division could see some changes to operations and senior management, Hirsh hopes to keep the educational publishing division intact, and grow it in the coming years. Comprised of North Carolina-based Carson-Dellosa Publishing and HighReach Learning, the division is the leading independent supplier in the U.S. educational supplement publishing market. ‘We like that business, and we think it needs more support than it’s been getting,’ Hirsh says. ‘There’s some great acquisitions there just waiting to be done.’ About 85% of Cinar’s current earnings are from the education division.

Though home to several successful properties, Cinar has been dogged by scandal since 2000, when allegations over irregularities in financial practices and tax claims led to founders Micheline Charest and Ron Weinberg being removed from their positions. Hirsh is confident however, that the change in ownership will allow people to leave the past in the past. ‘People know Toper and myself from our success at Nelvana, and I think that immediately speaks volumes,’ he says. Cinar as a corporate entity will undergo a name change, though Hirsh says the library of properties, which includes successful series like Arthur and Calliou, will keep the Cinar name.

Hirsh is one of the cofounders and former CEO of Nelvana, which was acquired by Corus for $540 million three years ago. Hirsh is also one of the founders of Canadian animation channel Teletoon. Taylor was formerly president of international distribution, marketing and consumer products for Nelvana, and president of Nelvana Communications, its L.A.-based sales and development office.

– With files from Leo Rice-Barker

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