'Simpsons' animation studio Film Roman sold to group led by its ex-president
Burbank-based Film Roman, best known for its two decades of work on "The Simpsons," will be merged with Bento Box Entertainment, another animation studio in Burbank started by Greenberg and two partners last year.
The parties involves declined to comment on financial details. But according to one person familiar with the deal, the buyers paid $2 million to $4 million in cash for Film Roman and assumed more in liabilities and leases.
Starz has for the last year been trying to sell Film Roman, movie studio Overture Films and DVD distributor Anchor Bay Entertainment as a package in order to focus entirely on its pay television network. When a deal failed to materialize, Starz shut down Overture in July and sold the studio's marketing and distribution assets to Relativity Media. For the time being, Starz is expected to hold onto Anchor Bay.
With funds from a group of private investors who backed the acquisition, Greenberg and his partners hope to grow Film Roman in new platforms including digital media, e-books and video games while maintaining the established business of animation service for shows such as "The Simpsons," "Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!" and a new version of "Beavis and Butthead."
"Our goal is to build great television and interactive brands," said Greenberg, who left Film Roman in late 2008. "Service will still be our bread and butter, but we can also be a brand incubator and idea factory."
He added that he also hoped to take the company into developing markets such as Brazil.
After the close of the acquisition, expected to occur by the end of the year, Bento Box and Film Roman will be merged into a new corporate entity whose name has yet to be determined. Film Roman has between 325 and 375 employees depending on its production flow. Bento Box, which is currently working on an upcoming series called "Bob's Burgers" for Fox, has about 80.
Greenberg will be chief executive, running the company with his Bento Box partners Joel Kuwahara, a former "Simpsons" producer, and Mark McJimsey, a veteran of "King of the Hill."
-- Ben Fritz
Image: The Simpsons. Credit: Fox.