|Industry||Television show, animation|
|Fate||Acquired by DHX Media|
|Founded||1976 (as Cinar)|
2004 (as Cookie Jar)
|Founders||Micheline Charest and Ronald A. Weinberg|
|Defunct||2004 (as Cinar)|
2012 (as Cookie Jar)
|Headquarters||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Michael Hirsh (CEO)|
Lesley Taylor (President)
|Divisions||Cookie Jar Entertainment|
Cookie Jar Education
Cookie Jar Consumer Products
Horn Rims Productions
Copyright Promotions Licensing Group
Cookie Jar Group is a Canadian media production and distribution company. The company was first established in 1976 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, Cinar held CDN$1.5 billion of the overall children's television market.
In the 2000s, Cinar became the subject of multiple business scandals, including accusations that the company had used offshore accounts to transfer money out of the company, had plagiarized the concept of one of its series, and had obfuscated the involvement of American screenwriters in its productions in order to continue receiving Canadian tax credits for domestic productions. Over a decade later, these scandals would result in criminal charges, convictions, and fines for co-founder Ronald Weinberg, and three other suspects.
Cinar was sold in 2004 for $190 million to a group led by Nelvana founder Michael Hirsh, and was folded into Cookie Jar Group. The company went to acquire the American animation studio DiC Entertainment in 2008, expanding its library. 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.
After their 1976 meeting in New Orleans, Micheline Charest, a native of London, England and resident of Quebec, Canada; and Ronald A. Weinberg, born in New York, 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 and Caillou.
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 1996, 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. CINAR also owned the Fandango Studios dubbing studio in Mexico City.
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 federal grants and tax credits for the production of Canadian content. The names of Canadian citizens (generally non-writers connected to Cinar, including Charest's sister Helene) were credited for the works. 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 renamed Cookie Jar.
On June 20, 2008, Cookie Jar Group announced a deal to acquire DIC Entertainment. On July 23, 2008, the acquisition was completed, and eventually DIC was folded into Cookie Jar's entertainment division. When Cookie Jar acquired DIC Entertainment, Cookie Jar also 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. Also 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 April 2009, the company hired Tom Mazza, formerly of TriStar and Paramount Television, as its executive vice president of worldwide television. Mazza planned to broaden Cookie Jar's slate by pursuing Canadian co-productions intended for global saley. In February 2011, Cookie Jar announced a new imprint known as The Jar, which it intended to use on series targeting U.S. primetime television, as well as a slate including Lori Kirkland Baker's All Over You for Lifetime, Blah Girls for MTV, Andrew Orenstein's Lords of the Playground for CBS, and Steven E. de Souza's Spyburbia for Fox and Global.
Acquisition by DHX Media
On August 20, 2012, DHX Media (now WildBrain) 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 on October 22, 2012.
Cookie Jar TV
At the time of Cookie Jar's acquisition of the company, DIC had been programming a weekend morning block for CBS known as KEWLopolis. On February 24, 2009, it was announced that CBS had renewed its contract with Cookie Jar for the block through 2012. For the 2009-10 television season, the block was re-branded as Cookie Jar TV. Cookie Jar TV was discontinued after the 2012–13 television season; it was succeeded in 2013–14 by CBS Dream Team, which is programmed by Litton Entertainment.
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.
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