Cookie Jar Group
|Industry||Television production, animation|
|Fate||Acquired by DHX Media|
|Founders||Micheline Charest and Ronald A. Weinberg|
|Defunct||October 22, 2012|
|Michael Hirsh (CEO)|
|Divisions||Cookie Jar Entertainment
Cookie Jar Education
Cookie Jar Consumer Products
Horn Rims Productions
Copyright Promotions Licensing Group
Cookie Jar Group was a Canadian media production and distribution company. The company was first established as Cinar, a Montreal-based studio that was heavily involved in children's entertainment. The company's business model, which included the licensing of its properties into educational markets, had a significant impact on its success; by 1999, Cinair held CDN$1.5 billion of the overall children's television market.
However, at the turn of the century, Cinar became the subject of multiple business scandals, including having been accused of obfuscating the involvement of U.S. screenwriters in its productions in order to continue collecting government credits for the production of Canadian content, accusations that the company had plagiarized the concept of one of its series, as well as the use of offshore accounts to transfer money out of the company. Over a decade later, the latter scandal would result in criminal charges, convictions, and fines for co-founder Ronald Weinberg, and three other suspects.
Having lost a large amount of its value, Cinar was sold in 2004 for CA$190 million to a group led by Nelvana founder Michael Hirsh, and re-named Cookie Jar Group. In 2008, Cookie Jar announced its intent to acquire the U.S. animation studio DiC Entertainment.
On August 20, 2012, DHX Media announced its intent to acquire Cookie Jar Group, in a deal that would make DHX the largest independent owner of children's television programming. The sale closed on October 22, 2012.
After their 1976 meeting in New Orleans, future spouses Micheline Charest and Ronald A. Weinberg organized an event for a women's film festival, and worked at distributing foreign films to US theatres. The couple moved to New York City and formed Cinar, a film and television distribution company.
In 1984, Cinar changed their focus from media distribution to production and moved operations to Montreal, where they concentrated on children's television programming (including Animal Crackers, Emily of New Moon, Mona the Vampire, and The Wombles), as well as the English and French dubs of the anime series Adventures of the Little Koala and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the Spain-originating TV series The World of David the Gnome, and the English dub of Ultra Seven. As a production company, Cinar was also involved in the work of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, The Busy World of Richard Scarry, Madeline, The Real Story of Happy Birthday to You, The Adventures of Paddington Bear, Space Cases, The Shoe People and its most famous work, Arthur, Zoboomafoo, Caillou and Plumo.
The firm became a public company in September 1993. By 1999, Cinar boasted annual revenues of $150 million (CAD) and owned about $1.5 billion (CAD) of the children's television market. In 1993, Cinar acquired the library of the British animation studio FilmFair, and closed it in 1998. In February 1999, Cinar acquired the film library of Leucadia Film Corporation.
The success of Charest, Weinberg, and Cinar ended in March 2000, when an internal audit revealed that about $122 million (US) was invested into Bahamian bank accounts without the board members' approval. Cinar had also paid American screenwriters for work while continuing to accept Canadian federal grants for content. The names of Canadian citizens (generally non-writers connected to Cinar, including Charest's sister Helene) were credited for the work, allowing Cinar to benefit from Canadian tax credits. While the province of Quebec did not file criminal charges, Cinar denied any wrongdoing, choosing instead to pay a settlement to Canadian and Quebec tax authorities of $17.8 million (CAD) and another $2.6 million (CAD) to Telefilm Canada, a Canadian federal funding agency. The value of Cinar's stock plummeted, and the company was soon delisted.
There was some speculation that Hasanain Panju, CFO was the mastermind behind the investment scheme along with John Xanthoudakis of Norshield Investment Group and Lino Matteo of Mount Real Corporation. It was alleged that Charest and Weinberg (and later Panju) used Cinar as a 'piggy bank' and schemed to transfer funds out from the company through a series of complicated transactions to their own offshore holding companies.
In 2001, as part of a settlement agreement with the Commission des Valeurs Mobilières du Québec (Quebec Securities Commission) Charest and Weinberg agreed to pay $1 million each and were banned from serving in the capacity of directors or officers at any publicly traded Canadian company for five years. There was no admission of guilt and none of the allegations has been proven in court. Charest never lived to see a possible outcome, as she died on April 14, 2004.
On August 26, 2009, in a separate case, the Superior Court of Quebec ruled that Cinar had plagiarized the work of Claude Robinson for its animated series Robinson Sucroe. The series was based on a concept he had pitched to Cinar in 1986, but had been turned down. Robinson was awarded $5.2 million in damages, in a suit that resolved a 14-year dispute between the two parties.
On January 17, 2014, former CFO Hasanain Panju pleaded guilty to undisclosed crimes. The judge noted these crimes were "disgraceful" and placed a publication ban on details surrounding the trial. Panju was sentenced to four years in prison.
On May 12, 2014, co-founder Ronald Weinberg, John Xanthoudakis of Norshield Financial Group and Lino Matteo of Mount Real Corp. were charged with 26 counts of fraud in Montreal Superior Court. They were convicted on most of the counts on June 2, 2016, and in the trial Panju acted as a key Crown witness. On June 22, 2016, Weinberg was sentenced to 8 years and 11 months in prison, and the other two received sentences of 7 years and 11 months each.
The Cinar affair was described thus by The Globe and Mail:
Mr. Weinberg and Ms. Charest set out to make non-violent, non-sexist children's programming because they wanted to foster socially progressive attitudes and feelings of self-worth in their own sons and a generation of kids with far too many bad TV choices.
But by the time their own kids had outgrown Cinar's shows, the couple's motivations seemed to have slid down the well-greased path of basic greed and avarice. If it took breaking the rules to enrich themselves, so be it. Success had gone to their heads. They acted (if not felt) invincible.
As Cookie Jar Group
In March 2004, Cinar was purchased for more than CA$190 million by a group led by Nelvana founder, Michael Hirsh and former Nelvana President, Toper Taylor. The company was subsequently re-named Cookie Jar.
On June 20, 2008, Cookie Jar Group announced a deal to merge with DIC Entertainment. On July 23, 2008, both studios completed their merger, and DIC was then folded into Cookie Jar's entertainment division. As part of Cookie Jar's merger with DIC, Cookie Jar acquired Copyright Promotions Licensing Group and a one-third interest in international children’s television channel, KidsCo. Cookie Jar now has more than 6,000 half-hours of programming as well as rights to several children's brands.
On July 23, 2008, it was announced that Cookie Jar was in negotiation with American Greetings to buy the Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, and Sushi Pack franchises. The deal was not finalized yet in late 2008 and with the current scenario, the transaction did not progress. On March 30, 2009, Cookie Jar made a $76 million counter bid for Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake. Cookie Jar had until April 30, 2009 to complete a deal with American Greetings. In May 2009, American Greetings filed a $100 million lawsuit against Cookie Jar and Cookie Jar filed a $25 million lawsuit against American Greetings over the Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake deal.
In February 2011, the company announced a slate of primetime series in development under a new imprint known as The Jar, including Blah Girls for MTV, Lords of the Playground for CBS, and Spyburbia for Fox and Global.
Acquisition by DHX Media
On August 20, 2012, DHX Media announced that they would acquire Cookie Jar Group for $111 million; the purchase made DHX the world's largest independent owner of children's television programming. The acquisition was completed in October 22, 2012.
All television operations have ceased operation.
Cookie Jar TV
On February 24, 2009, it was announced that CBS renewed its contract with Cookie Jar for another three seasons, through 2012. On September 19, 2009, KEWLopolis was re-branded as Cookie Jar TV.
Cookie Jar Toons
Cookie Jar Kids Network
Cookie Jar Kids Network (formerly DiC Kids Network) was a children's programming block that aired selected Cookie Jar programs on local FOX, MyNetworkTV, and independent stations to provide them with a source of Educational/Informational (E/I) programming required by American broadcast standards. Syndicated by Ascent Media, it ceased broadcasting on September 17, 2011.
- A Bunch of Munsch
- A Miss Mallard Mystery
- Animal Crackers
- Arthur (Seasons 1-15)
- Busytown Mysteries
- Deadtime Stories"
- Ella the Elephant
- Emily of New Moon
- Gerald McBoing-Boing
- Johnny Test
- Kung Fu Dino Posse
- Postcards from Buster
- Potatoes and Dragons
- Spider Riders"
- The Adventures of Paddington Bear
- The Babaloos
- The Busy World of Richard Scarry
- The Country Mouse and the City Mouse Adventures
- The Doodlebops
- The New Adventures of Nanoboy
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- The World of David the Gnome
- Upstairs, Downstairs Bears
- World of Quest
- "The MAN who Brought Down CINAR". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
- Swift, Allan (March 15, 2002). "Cinar Co-Founders Fined $1 Million Each, Banned From Company For Five Years". Canadian Press Newswire. Archived from the original on June 28, 2012.
- Kelly, Brendan (February 9, 1999). "Cinar gets library, grows Viacom pact". Retrieved January 1, 2017.
- "In Depth: Micheline Charest". CBC News Online. April 14, 2004. Retrieved September 7, 2006.
- "Norshield CEO led 'cleanup'". Investorvoice.ca. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
- "Cinar to pay $5.2M for plagiarizing cartoon". CBC News. August 26, 2009. Retrieved August 27, 2009.
- "Montreal animator wins $5.2M in copyright battle". Montreal Gazette. August 26, 2009. Retrieved August 27, 2009.
- "Former CA sentenced to four years in jail". The Gazette. Retrieved November 8, 2015.
- Delean, Paul. "Fraud trial of Cinar founder Ronald Weinberg and investment execs begins in Quebec Superior Court". The Montreal Gazette. Archived from the original on May 13, 2014.
- Marotte, Bertrand; Van Praet, Nicolas (June 2, 2016). "Cinar founder Ronald Weinberg, two others found guilty on fraud charges". The Globe and Mail.
- Marotte, Bertrand (June 22, 2016). "Cinar founder Weinberg given nearly nine years in fraud case". The Globe and Mail.
- Yakabuski, Konrad (June 23, 2016). "The tattered Cinar legacy is a lesson in humility". The Globe and Mail.
- "Cinar sold for $143.9 million US; new owner outlines growth strategy". CBC News. October 31, 2003. Retrieved September 7, 2006.
- "Cinar turns into Cookie Jar". Variety. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
- "Cookie Jar and DIC Entertainment to merge, creating independent global children's entertainment and education powerhouse". Cookie Jar Group. June 20, 2008. Archived from the original on May 31, 2009. Retrieved December 20, 2008.
- "Cookie Jar Entertainment expands brands portfolio, talent and global reach with closing of DIC transaction". Cookie Jar Group. July 23, 2008. Archived from the original on May 31, 2009. Retrieved December 20, 2008.
- "Cookie Jar Entertainment to Acquire American Greetings' Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears Properties" (Press release). Cookie Jar Group. July 23, 2008. Retrieved July 29, 2008.
- "American Greetings 2Q profit falls 73 pct on costs". San Francisco Chronicle. September 26, 2008. Archived from the original on December 11, 2008. Retrieved October 10, 2008.
- "Bid puts 'Care Bears,' 'Shortcake' back in play". The Hollywood Reporter. April 2, 2009. Archived from the original on January 26, 2013. Retrieved April 3, 2009.
- "Brooklyn-based American Greetings accuses Cookie Jar Entertainment of bad faith in Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears deal". Cleveland.com. May 12, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2009.
- "Kids Series Producer Cookie Jar Expands Into Primetime With Development Slate". Deadline.com. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
- Vlessing, Etan (August 20, 2012). "DHX Media expands by buying Cookie Jar Entertainment". KidScreen. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- Clarke, Steve (August 20, 2012). "DHX grabs Cookie Jar: Canuck kids' entertainment companies combine". Chicago Tribune (Variety). Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- "DHX MEDIA CLOSES ACQUISITION OF COOKIE JAR ENTERTAINMENT" (Press release). DHX Media. October 22, 2012. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- Sylvain, Matthew (October 23, 2012). "DHX purchase of Cookie Jar completed". KidScreen. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- "CBS renews Cookie Jar Entertainment's saturday morning block for three more seasons". Cookie Jar Group. February 24, 2009. Archived from the original on May 31, 2009. Retrieved July 7, 2009.
- "CBS Reups With Kids Programmer Cookie Jar". Broadcasting & Cable. February 24, 2009. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
- "Zeroing in". kidscreen. May 8, 2009. Retrieved July 14, 2009.
- "CBS Sets Lineup for Cookie Jar Block". WorldScreen. September 4, 2009. Retrieved September 10, 2009.
- "About Cookie Jar Entertainment". Cookie Jar Group. Retrieved July 14, 2009.
- "MGM launches this TV Network". MGM. July 28, 2008. Retrieved July 14, 2009.
- "Documents for "Cookie Jar Kids.net. a busy world"". Ascent Media. Retrieved March 11, 2010.
- "Documents for "Cookie Jar Kids Network B"". Ascent Media. Retrieved March 11, 2010.