Iconix Brand Group inc is exploring the possibility of auctioning off its 80 percent stake in Peanuts Worldwide LLC, the company which owns the rights to characters such as Snoopy, Charlie Brown Woodstock, Linus, and Lucy. The characters generate around $30 million in licensing revenue before taxes, interest, depreciation, and amortization year year. Last year, The Peanuts Movie was nominated for a Golden Globe and grossed $246 million worldwide. Despite that, Iconix was $1.29 billion dollars in debt as of September 2016. This has lead Iconix to sell off another of their flagship brands, the Sharper Image, and seek to sell off their Strawberry Shortcake brand.
“Peanuts” were created by Charles Schulz originally as “Li’l Folks” in 1947. It was was originally a flop when published in the Pioneer Press, only achieving success when he compiled his strips and sold them to the United Features Syndicate, which changed the name to “Peanuts.”
The characters would go on to star in several beloved television specials such as A Charlie Brown Christmas, You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. “Peanuts” has the Guinness World Record for longest running syndicated cartoon, awarded after its 2000th issue. Schultz continued to write and illustrate it as a syndicated comic strip until 2000 when it ended it just days before Schultz’s death.
“Peanuts” characters are currently licensed in over 100 countries, and though recently MetLife Inc has dropped the characters as their mascots after 30 years; they still have agreements with other companies for sponsorship and licensing, including NestleSA, Hallmark Card Inc, Zara, and a recently renewed contract to air Peanuts holiday specials on ABC. A Snoopy museum was also just opened in Japan last year, the property’s largest international market.
Iconix is working with Guggenheim Partners LLC on a potential auction to sell “Peanuts” which they acquired from United Features Syndicate and The E.W. Scripps Company in 2010 for $175 million dollars. Unidentified sources have claimed that the “Peanuts” characters have attracted the eye of Chinese companies keen to pick U.S. media and licensing assets. The last 20 percent share of “Peanuts” will continue to be held by The Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, which is controlled by the Schulz family.