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Mr Men owner Chorion to be broken up and sold

Company owning assets including Noddy and Paddington Bear fails to renegotiate banking deals to alleviate its debt

Chorion, the owner of Noddy, Mr Men and the Agatha Christie franchise, is to be broken up and sold after failing to renegotiate banking deals to alleviate its debt.

The company, which earlier this year breached its banking covenants and was on the brink of being pushed into administration, has appointed DC Advisory Partners to handle a sale of the business.

Last week Lord Alli, the Chorion chairman and Labour peer, and William Astor, the deputy chairman, tendered their resignations as attempts to restructure the £70m debt burden failed.

The three senior lenders – Bank of Ireland, GE Capital and Lloyds – have pushed for the business to be broken up and sold. Private equity firm 3i owns a majority stake in Chorion, however the lenders are now in control of the sale process.

Alli is thought to have been trying to tap up private equity buyers to take over the company.

“The senior banks and management have agreed to an orderly disposal of the group’s assets,” said a source close to the company.

DC Advisory Partners was the logical choice to oversee the sell-off as the company had been handling a strategic review of the options facing Chorion.

Chorion’s wide-ranging asset base – which includes Paddington Bear, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, the estate of writer Raymond Chandler and The World of Beatrix Potter – means a range of bidders are likely to emerge to snap up the pieces.

“There is no rush, no time pressure,” said one source close to the company, adding that the lenders are set to back Chorion through the sell-off period.

Chorion, as a whole or in parts, could interest companies including Disney, Hasbro, Viacom and children’s entertainment mogul Haim Saban and even Peppa Pig owner Entertainment One.

Alli and Astor were part of a four-strong management team that sold Chorion to private equity firm 3i in 2006 for £111m.

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