Troubled German media concern EM.TV & Merchandising has confirmed that it is planning to sell the Jim Henson Group as part of a corporate restructure following its deal with the KirchGroup last month (ScreenDaily, Feb 2000).

EM.TV spokeswoman Marion Moormann declared to the dpa/AFX news service, however, that the sale was "not yet settled" and refused to be drawn on the names of possible bidders, although the German business daily Handelsblatt noted that the Walt Disney Co. and Viacom subsidiary Nickelodeon had already shown an interest, albeit not at the price tag of $680m which EM.TV had paid for the US company a year ago. In December 2000, Disney is reported to have indicated that it was prepared to pay between $200m and $250m for the company.

Handelsblatt also reported that the New York-based investment bank Allen & Co, who had mediated the original sale to EM.TV in February 2000, was a candidate to handle the sale now.

Commenting on this latest twist in the dramatic EM.TV story, Merck Finck analyst Alexander Kachler observed that it was "likely that EM.TV would want to retain the merchandising rights for the Muppets in the German-speaking or even the European market. This would make a lower price tag more acceptable and would fit into EM.TV's recently announced concentration on merchandising.