Muppets take Munich

Posted: Thursday, March 30, 2000

FRANKFURT, Germany -- It's not easy bein' gruen.

Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy are becoming the latest American icons to go German, following in the footsteps of Chrysler Corp. and Random House.

Munich-based media company EM.TV and Merchandising is buying the Jim Henson Co. for $680 million in cash and stock, giving it exclusive rights to such fuzzy critters as Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Bert and Ernie, and the scraggly green furball, Oscar the Grouch.

''We are a strong believer in brands,'' deputy chairman of EM.TV Florian Haffa said Monday. ''With the Jim Henson Company, you don't get bigger internationally recognized brands than Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.''

The deal, in the works for several months, also seals ownership of some of the world's best loved children's shows including ''Sesame Street,'' ''The Muppet Show,'' ''Jim Henson's Muppet Babies'' and ''Fraggle Rock,'' not to mention a string of Muppet films.

''Sesame Street,'' first broadcast in 1969, is seen in 140 countries alone.

The buyout gives EM.TV rights to more than 5,000 licensed Muppet products that have hit toy stores over the last 10 years. That includes the talking-and-laughing Tickle Me Elmo doll -- which triggered buying frenzies at toy stores across the United States -- and more than 30 million Muppet books sold in 45 countries.

EM.TV also gets access to the Los Angeles-based company's science-fiction shows, which include ''Farscape.''

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