AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - You've got a new owner, Charlie Brown.
E.W. Scripps Co. said Tuesday it will sell the unit that owns the licensing rights to Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the rest of the "Peanuts" gang for $175 million to Joe Boxer owner Iconix Brand Group Inc.
The sale of United Media Licensing also means Iconix has a new partnership with the family of the late "Peanuts" creator, Charles Schulz. They'll receive 20 percent ownership in the unit that owns "Peanuts" and pay that percentage of the sale price.
United Media Licensing represents other character brands such as Dilbert and Fancy Nancy, but the bulk of its licensing business comes from "Peanuts."
The unit's licensed merchandise has annual sales of more than $2 billion, but the owners of the licenses receive a fraction of that. In 2009, revenue of the unit fell 10 percent to nearly $92 million. That figure includes United Media's syndication operations, which Scripps will still own, meaning it will still syndicate comic strips and editorial features.
The "Peanuts" gang appears everywhere - on T-shirts, greeting cards and sno-cone machines - six decades after the Minnesota native created them. The business has more than 1,200 licensing agreements and relationships with companies and retailers such as Warner Bros., Old Navy, CVS, MetLife Inc. and Hallmark Co. Some 20,000 new products are approved each year in more than 40 countries.
Scripps first brought the strip to market in 1950. By the time Schulz retired in 1999, Peanuts was in more than 2,600 papers. Schulz died in February 2000.
Scripps said the cash deal will close by the end of the second quarter.
The newspaper publisher and TV station owner announced in February it was exploring a sale.
Iconix, formerly known as Candie's, said it expects "Peanuts" to generate about $75 million in annual royalty revenue and noted a pre-existing revenue share with the Schulz family, separate from the new 20 percent arrangement. Iconix, basedin New York, owns and licenses brands such as Joe Boxer, London Fog, Starter and Mudd, to retailers, wholesalers and suppliers.
"The Peanuts characters have been our entertaining co-workers and the Schulz family has been our trusted partner for nearly 60 years. But this is the right move for all involved as we go our separate ways in recognition of changing times and new strategies," said Scripps CEO Rich Boehne.
Iconix CEO Neil Cole said the purchase moves the company away from being one focused solely on fashion into new realms that include theme parks, media and financial institutions.
The family was heartened by the sale, said Charles Schulz' son, Craig Schulz.
"Peanuts now has the best of both worlds," he said. "Family ownership and the vision and resources of Iconix to perpetuate what my father created throughout the next century with all the goodwill his lovable characters bring."
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