Boardroom crisis rocks home of Basil Brush, Rupert Bear and Lassie

On screen, they inhabited idyllic worlds where laughter and fun with friends was never far away. But the perfect lives of children's favourites Rupert Bear, Postman Pat and Basil Brush are under threat, for the company that owns them is in crisis.

Entertainment Rights – which owns the rights to the popular television trio – announced this week that its chief executive and founder Michael Heap was leaving after nine years at the helm.

Mr Heap's departure is the latest blow to the company, whose problems are said to stem from a combination of dwindling interest in their products and a poor Christmas period. Its share price has dropped 73 per cent in the last 12 months.

The new chief executive will be Nick Davies, the former UK chief executive of the American music group Warner. And his arrival may not be the last change in the hierarchy of a company that is open to takeover bids.

This week Entertainment Rights revealed it is in "very preliminary talks" with two unnamed parties which "may or may not" lead to an offer.

It's all a far cry from the heady days of 2006 when Mr Heap was leading the world's biggest independent owner of children's brands following the purchase of its American rival Classic Media for £106m.

The deal added Lassie and the Lone Ranger to an already considerable portfolio of popular children's television characters. That was the high-tide mark, however, and since then it has been a struggle for the company to hold up its share price and maintain momentum.

Entertainment Rights was established by Mr Heap in 1999 and initially had a portfolio comprising just 50 hours of programming. Its first year's revenue was £1.8m but it expanded to more than 2,000 hours of programming in 2005 and saw its revenue increase to £30.7m.

In that time it has owned the rights to children's characters including Barbie, Transformers, Dennis the Menace and The Tweenies. And just over a year ago it acquired the hard-to-spot children's character Where's Wally? in a £2.5m deal designed to reach an older age group beyond the toddlers it targets with Postman Pat and Rupert Bear.

Following the drop in share prices and problems it has had with DVD distribution, it is increasingly likely that the company will face a takeover.

That could mean some of the country's favourite characters being moved to a new home. There is even a danger that a new owner may not want some of them, leading to the possibility that the programmes may be sold off to several buyers.

Rod Bransgrove, chairman of Entertainment Rights, said yesterday that the main aim was to restore faith in the company, thereby providing a safe future for Pat, Basil and Co.

"There is no certainty that an acceptable offer will be made for the company," he said, adding that the board was aware of its responsibilities to shareholders.

"The decision to appoint Nick Phillips as chief executive has been taken to ensure that the company maintains an absolute focus on delivering shareholder value and in re-establishing shareholder confidence," he said.

Commenting on the departure of the company's founder, Mr Bransgrove added: "We should like to thank Mike Heap for his significant contribution to the company's development during his nine years as chief executive and we wish him every success in the future."

Mike Heap paid tribute to the company and its staff: "I have thoroughly enjoyed my nine years as chief executive of Entertainment Rights and wish the company and its dedicated staff every success in the future."

But, despite the turmoil, fans of the popular shows need not worry. A source confirmed that in spite of the current turmoil at Entertainment Rights it is unthinkable that the shows, many of which have a worldwide following, would be allowed to die.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

£20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

Trend Writer / Copywriter

£25 - 30k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Trend Writer / Copywriter: Retail, Design and...

Business Development Manager / Media Sales Exec

£28 - 32k + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager ...

Digital Marketing Assistant

£17 - 27k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Digital Marketing Assistant to join ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering