Ousted HIT chief returns to market

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The Independent Online

Rob Lawes, who was ousted as chief executive of children's characters group HIT Entertainment in 2004, is to make a return to the stock market with a new media rights business.

The venture, Ludorum, to be listed on the Alternative Investment Market, sees Mr Lawes bring his old management team from HIT Entertainment, famous for characters such as Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine, back together. It is backed by four of the former major institutional shareholders in HIT, who were not named.

Ludorum will not just focus on the children's market but will target adult properties too, ranging "from comedy to kung fu". Mr Lawes said that the development of new media markets, including the internet, mobile phones and other devices such as iPods, provided additional revenue streams for rights owners.

Ludorum includes Charlie Caminada as chief operating officer and Simon Pearce as finance director, both from HIT.

The company will initially raise £5m, including £1m from management. It will call on the markets to raise money for the acquisition opportunities it finds. Ludorum could buy the rights to individual characters or companies with libraries of content. The size of deals looked at will be sub €50m (£35m).

Mr Lawes said: "HIT was very much a child of its time ... The model is changing." For instance, he said that DVD sales - once a major source of revenue for rights owners - were on the decline as the choice offered by multi-channel TV meant that consumers did not feel the need to buy programmes on DVD.

Within 48 hours of his departure from HIT, in October 2004, Mr Lawes was working on a bid for the company with private equity group Apax, which succeeded last year (though he never rejoined). Hit is currently trying to put together an offer for rival Chorion, though Mr Lawes is not involved.

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