Sleepy Kids seeks new MD to revive merchandising

Sleepy Kids, the embattled animation company which owns the rights to `Budgie the Helicopter', has bowed to pressure to beef up the management team.

Shares in Sleepy Kids have fallen to 14p from a high of 117p three years ago. Now, the husband and wife team that founded the company in 1985 is taking action to show the City they mean business by searching for a managing director for their merchandising business, one of the group's most important divisions.

However, despite a determined trawl through the industry, no takers for the post have yet been found.

Martin Powell, the company's chairman, said yesterday the new recruit would "exploit the properties we own", which include The Disguisables, an action adventure series for children, and Dr Zitbag's Transylvania Pet Shop.

Mr Powell, who is running the merchandising division with his wife, said: "We're going to want a particular individual to take the reins. There are five or six strong candidates."

Sleepy Kids has come under increasing pressure from shareholders after falling profits and a series of problems with its core product, Budgie, which was created by the Duchess of York. The company became embroiled in a $22m (pounds 14m) legal battle with Budgie's marketing agents earlier this year, and ITV failed to commission a fourth series of the cartoon. Fox Children's Network has also axed the series.

Sleepy Kids is reportedly seeking bidders for Budgie to raise cash for new projects. Mr Powell said yesterday he could never rule out disposing of assets, but there were no plans to sell Budgie at the moment.

Profits for the 14 months to December 1996 slid to pounds 292,000, from pounds 890,000 the year before. Mr Powell blamed a delay in completing a deal to distribute Budgie videos in the United States.