The once squeaky-clean image of family programming provider Cinar Corp has been further tarnished as husband-and-wife co-founders Micheline Charest and Ronald Weinberg resigned yesterday following revelations that about $122m of its funds were invested without the knowledge or authorisation of its board of directors.
The sum, which exceeds Cinar's own annual revenues of about $102m, had been earmarked for acquisitions. Senior executive vice president Hasanain Panju has been terminated as an officer and an employee of the company over the incident.
In a slow-motion fall-from-grace worthy of its own mini-series, Montreal-based Cinar has been trying to defend itself for the past year against allegations of fraudulently qualifying for Canadian content tax credits. More recently, the company admitted the internal investigation into those charges could adversely affect its financial results, prompting some shareholders to threaten the company with class-action suits. Trading was halted at the Toronto stock exchange yesterday, and the stock is expected to take a dive today, after a C$27 closing Friday and an all-time high of $44.50 last year.
In 1976, newlyweds Charest and Weinberg founded the company on a platform of providing non-violent quality programming for children. The two became a Canadian success story as they built the company into an international producer and distributor, with such original productions as the animated Arthur series. Charest and Weinberg will continue to serve on the company's board of directors.