Former Cinar Corp. exec joins Portfolio Ent.

Toronto -- After the "Cat in the Hat," Portfolio Entertainment has pulled out a rabbit with a flourish by hiring veteran Louis Fournier to take the Canadian indie distributor to the next level.

He has the credentials. Fournier was head of distribution at Cinar Corp., the creator of animated hits like "Arthur," "Caillou" and "Mona the Vampire," before the Canadian animation house, felled by a financial scandal, was sold in 2004 to a consortium led by former Nelvana co-founder Michael Hirsh and renamed the Cookie Jar Entertainment.

After moving from Montreal indie producers Galafilm to Tribal Nova, Fournier now lands in Toronto to fill the newly created post of vp sales and acquisitions at Portfolio Entertainment.

Portfolio, founded and run since 1991 by Joy Rosen and Lisa Olfman, has been a mainstay at the two MIPs and other TV markets but has never stood out with a calling-card series.

That changed when
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Pelletier documentary traces rise and fall of Cinar

TORONTO -- In 2000, the animation industry was rocked by the collapse of Cinar Corp., the Canadian cartoon producer behind such popular series as "Arthur", "Calliou" and "The Busy World of Richard Scarry."

Quebec documentarian Francine Pelletier set out to understand the rise and dramatic fall of Cinar co-founder Micheline Charest, only to have doors slammed in her face.

"This was the hardest thing I've ever done. I have never got this kind of silent treatment and refusals. Everyone headed for the hills," Pelletier said Friday as her completed documentary, "The Woman Who Lost Herself", began a theatrical release in Quebec.

The documentary takes viewers back to when Charest and husband Ronald Weinberg were media darlings as the forces behind Montreal-based Cinar during the 1990s. In 1997, The Hollywood Reporter ranked Charest 19th on its list of the 50 most powerful women in the entertainment industry.

But her gilded world fell apart in 2000 when she and Weinberg were found to have put the names of Canadians on scripts written by Americans in order to extract tax credits and other lucrative government subsidies.

Pelletier's attempts to interview officials in the federal bureaucracy in Ottawa that administered the tax credit system, as well as at Telefilm Canada, the federal government's film financier implicated in the Cinar affair, all were unsuccessful.

She alleges a cover-up in the highest reaches of the Canadian TV industry over its corporate ethics in the wake of Cinar.

Cookie Jar in talks with investors

TORONTO -- Canadian animation producer Cookie Jar Group is speaking with potential new private equity investors -- with all options, including a sale of the company -- on the table.

"We've achieved our goal to turn around the company, and we're poised for continued dynamic growth," Cookie Jar CEO Michael Hirsh said Wednesday(April 25).

Hirsh, who along with his co-founders sold rival cartoon producer Nelvana Ltd. in 2000, returned in 2003 to lead a consortium including TD Capital Canadian Private Equity Partners and the giant OMERS pension fund that acquired and took rival Cinar Corp. private as part of a $144 million deal in early 2004.

Since then, Cookie Jar has maintained its profitable educational publishing business and resurrected the animation division after years of underinvestment and turmoil under the former ownership of Cinar co-founders Micheline Charest and Ronald Weinberg.

But now Cookie Jar needs growth capital to take its core businesses to the next level just as its equity investors consider cashing out, Hirsh said.

Cinar founder Charest dies during surgery

TORONTO -- A month after selling a controlling stake in Canadian animation producer Cinar Corp., Micheline Charest died late Wednesday afternoon from complications while undergoing surgery in a Montreal hospital. She was 51. Charest, who with husband and Cinar co-founder Ronald Weinberg was forced out of Cinar in 2001 over allegations of tax fraud and improper investments, died after undergoing seven hours of plastic surgery, according to Canadian media reports.

Cinar board OKs takeover

TORONTO -- Putting an end to four years of corporate scandal and intrigue, shareholders of embattled Canadian animation producer Cinar Corp. on Tuesday voted strongly in favor of selling the company to a consortium led by former Nelvana Ltd. executives Michael Hirsh and Toper Taylor. At a special meeting in Montreal, holders of Cinar multiple and limited voting shares voted more than 99% in favor of the $144 million takeover deal. The shareholder vote will now go before the Quebec Superior Court, which is expected to approve the Cinar takeover by Feb. 27. Also voting in favor of the takeover deal were Cinar co-founders and controlling shareholders Micheline Charest and Ronald Weinberg, who now bow out of the company they founded more than two decades ago. Charest and Weinberg were fired from their posts in August 2000 over allegations of tax fraud and improper investments.

Cinar trading ban lifted

TORONTO -- Quebec securities officials on Friday temporarily lifted a trading ban on stock in Canadian cartoon producer Cinar Corp. to allow a $145 million takeover deal by a consortium led by former Nelvana CEO Michael Hirsh to go ahead. The 4-year-old trading ban by the Quebec Securities Commission was lifted after a hearing in Montreal and was first imposed in April 2000 when Cinar came under police and regulatory investigation into tax fraud and improper investments. NASDAQ also delisted over its corporate scandal. The temporary suspension of the Canadian trade ban also paves the way toward a possible return to financial markets for Cinar as its proposed new management under Hirsh intends. A special shareholders meeting has been called for Feb. 17 to vote on the takeover bid by Hirsh and another former Nelvana executive, Toper Taylor. Cinar's founding couple and former co-CEOs, Micheline Charest and Ronald Weinberg, have agreed to sell their controlling stake in the animation producer to Hirsh and his consortium.

Cinar wins arbitration

TORONTO -- The purchase price on Tuesday for embattled Cinar Corp. rose by around $1.2 million after an arbitrator ruled in favor of the Canadian animation producer in a dispute over options held by company co-founders and former co-CEOs Micheline Charest and Ronald Weinberg. Acting on the arbitrator's decision, Montreal-based Cinar said shareholders are to receive $3.60 per-share in cash rather than $3.57. About $1.2 million of the $143.9 million purchase price first proposed on Oct. 30 by an investor group led by Michael Hirsh and Toper Taylor was held in escrow until the dispute between Cinar's current management and Charest and Weinberg over the exercise of 840,000 options was resolved. "I am pleased that the arbitration board decision supports the company's position that the options held by Ms. Charest and Mr. Weinberg expired on March 6, 2000," Stuart Snyder, president and CEO of Cinar, said in a statement. Settling the options dispute means Cinar moves another step to clearing the deck before new ownership moves into the executive suite. A special shareholders meeting is scheduled for Jan. 15 in Montreal to secure approval for the acquisition by Hirsh and Taylor, both former executives of rival animation producer Nelvana Ltd.

Cinar settles with BRB

TORONTO -- Canadian animation producer Cinar Corp. moved another step toward clearing the deck Monday before new ownership moves into its executive suite, signaling that it had reached an out-of-court settlement with Spanish animation producer BRB International SA. Montreal-based Cinar said it had agreed to pay BRB International CAN$450,000 ($341,000) to settle a lawsuit filed in August 2000 against Cinar co-founders and former co-CEOs Micheline Charest and Ronald Weinberg, alleging breach of contract over a shared purchase deal. The lawsuit, filed in Quebec Superior Court, alleged that Charest and Weinberg had agreed in November 1998 to buy all of BRB International's stock for about CAN$78 million ($59 million).

Cinar to meet with shareholders on takeover bid

TORONTO -- Canadian animation producer Cinar Corp. said Thursday that it will hold a special shareholders meeting Jan. 15 to secure approval for a proposed $143.9 million acquisition by a consortium led by former Nelvana executives Michael Hirsh and Toper Taylor. Shareholders will be asked to vote on the acquisition, first unveiled Oct. 30, during a morning meeting at the Omni Hotel in Montreal. Hirsh and Taylor, backed by TD Capital Canadian Private Equity Partners, signed an agreement to acquire Cinar's outstanding multiple and limited voting shares, including the 62% controlling stake held by company co-founders and one-time co-CEOs Micheline Charest and Ronald Weinberg. The proposed acquisition by Hirsh means an earlier special shareholders meeting -- scheduled in August for Dec. 11 -- at which rebel shareholders including Charest and Weinberg were to vote on replacing Cinar's current board of directors, will now not go ahead.

Consortium buys Cinar for $143 million

Embattled kids TV and educational company Cinar Corp. is being acquired for $143.9 million by a consortium led by children's programming veterans Toper Taylor and Michael Hirsh. Taylor and Hirsh, backed by TD Capital Canadian Private Equity Partners, signed an agreement Thursday to acquire Cinar's outstanding multiple and limited voting shares, including the 62% controlling stake held by company co-founders and one-time co-CEOs Micheline Charest and Ronald Weinberg. The company had been expected to fetch $145 million-$160 million. Hirsh and Taylor have more than 50 years of combined experience as entrepreneurs and business builders in the global kids and family entertainment arena. Hirsh was a founder and former CEO of animation leader Nelvana Ltd. and Taylor was formerly president of international distribution, marketing and consumer products at Nelvana and was president of Nelvana Communications, the company's Los Angeles-based sales and development office.

Cinar forced into naming new board

TORONTO -- Dissident shareholders at Cinar Corp., including discredited founders and former co-CEOs Micheline Charest and Ronald Weinberg, have succeeded in forcing the Canadian producer of kids programming to schedule a special shareholders meeting to appoint a new slate of board members. In a statement issued Tuesday, Montreal-based Cinar said that a special shareholders meeting will be held Dec. 11 -- or sooner if possible -- in response to a formal request made Aug. 29 for such a gathering from dissident shareholder Robert Chapman, a principal of Los Angeles-based Chap-Cap Partners, which owns about 3 million nonvoting shares in Cinar.

Digest: Regency ups Corzo

Regency Enterprises has promoted Robert Corzo to senior vp finance and chief accounting officer from his current position as senior vp finance ... Quebec Securities Commission is considering a request by embattled Cinar co-founders Micheline Charest and Ronald Weinberg to replace Robert Despres as the trustee of their controlling stake in the Canadian animation producer ... Canadian broadcaster Chum Ltd. said Monday that it has completed a nonvoting share offering to realize proceeds of about CAN$106 million ($77.1 million).

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