Disney Enlists Miss Piggy, Kermit in Fight Against Comcast

19 February 2004

Michael Eisner, the embattled chairman/ceo of Walt Disney Company, needs all the help he can get right now. And who better in a tight spot than that shapely handbag-swinging icon of independent femininity Miss Piggy?

Comcast Corporation ceo Michael Roberts may discover he has bitten off more than he can chew, as Disney tightens its defenses against the cable group's $59.87 billion (€46.68bn; £31.56bn) hostile bid.

Eisner, Roberts can handle with one hand tied behind his back. But even the Comcast hard-man would prove a pre-breakfast appetizer to the redoubtable Miss Piggy. Together with her amphibian inamorato Kermit, she could help swing the upcoming conflict Disney's way.

Disney announced Tuesday it is now the proud owner of those highly desirable properties, The Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House, bought from the Jim Henson Company for an undisclosed price.

Although the deal has been in negotiation for many months and predates Comcast's recent bid, it could prove (an accidental) defensive masterstroke, enhancing Disney's assets by far more than the sum of its parts.

The Muppets acquisition will if nothing else force Comcast to hike its offer price or withdraw. Likelier yet, it will strengthen the resolve of Disney shareholders to hang on to their stock however much Comcast may sweeten its offer.

According to Disney's chief strategic officer Peter Murphy, "conversations" started last summer in the wake of the Henson family's buyback of the Muppets from German merchandising group EM.TV, purchased two years earlier for $680 million.

The family has signed a binding sale agreement with Disney to transfer all Muppets assets including the associated television and film libraries. Disney also has the development rights for exploitation across its range of businesses -- TV, film and theme parks. The deal is expected to become final within two months.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff