Turner Broadcasting System Inc. has entered into exclusive negotiations to acquire Hanna-Barbera Productions Inc., the animation company that has been on the auction block for more than a year.
Great American Communications Co. of Cincinnati, Hanna-Barbera’s parent, announced on Friday that it had signed a formal letter of intent with Turner.
The purchase would be made by a joint venture of Turner and Apollo Investment Fund, a Cayman Islands-based firm run by former Drexel Burnham Lambert investment banker Leon Black.
The parties declined to discuss the purchase price. But sources close to the negotiations said Turner offered to pay about $250 million for Hanna-Barbera, which holds the rights to such characters as the Flintstones, Jetsons and Yogi Bear.
MCA Inc., which uses Hanna-Barbera characters at its Universal Studios Florida theme park, was said to be close to striking a deal to buy Hanna-Barbera last month. MCA had offered to pay $175 million and was still in negotiations as of Thursday, sources said. More than a dozen other entertainment companies have also considered making bids.
If the deal is completed, Hanna-Barbera cartoons would be shown on Turner’s cable television stations. The Atlanta-based entertainment company might also create new programs around the well-known characters, sources said. One complication to any deal, however, is a long-term distribution agreement between Hanna-Barbera and Worldvision Enterprises Inc. Worldvision, owned by a Great American affiliate, holds domestic and foreign rights to more than 5,000 half-hour episodes of Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The two sides did not say whether the agreement would remain in place.
Hanna-Barbera generated pretax cash flow of $16 million on revenue of $99 million last year.