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Kanye West’s Yeezy, Jim Henson Co. and Gersh got federal loans

Kanye West accepts the Video Vanguard Award onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards.
Kanye West accepts the Video Vanguard Award onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. His apparel firm, Yeezy, was among the companies approved for a government loan program aimed at reducing layoffs during the pandemic.
(Jeff Kravitz / MTV1415/FilmMagic)

Judd Apatow’s production business, Jim Henson Co. and an apparel firm linked to music artist Kanye West were among the companies approved for a government loan program aimed at reducing layoffs during the pandemic.

The financial assistance, disclosed Monday by the Small Business Administration, was part of the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. Under the program, businesses are forgiven their loans if they keep workers employed for at least eight weeks after receiving the funding.

The money helped many agencies, production companies, visual effects shops and others in the entertainment business stay afloat as the novel coronavirus wreaked havoc on the industry. While government officials devised appropriate safety measures, the industry scrambled to adjust to the health crisis, canceling or postponing concerts and halting productions. Many businesses laid off employees or cut their salaries due to the uncertainty of the market.

With Hollywood on hold, so are the livelihoods of thousands of workers who depend on the film and TV business that has halted during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Hollywood-based Jim Henson Co., creator of the muppets, said a $2-million PPP loan helped it retain 75 workers when the studio had to shut down key businesses, such as live-action productions.

The Apatow Co. was among several Southern California entertainment businesses approved for loans. The company said it received $160,000 but ended up not using the money and returned the loan. New Regency Productions was approved for a PPP loan of $1 million to $2 million, helping retain 50 jobs, according to the government data. And Village Roadshow Entertainment Group USA Inc. retained 26 jobs with a loan of $350,000 to $1 million, according to government data.

Talent agencies that received PPP loans included the Gersh Agency of Beverly Hills and L.A.-based Verve Talent and Literary Agency. Gersh received a $5-million to $10-million loan, helping retain 250 jobs. Verve received $350,000 to $1 million and preserved 68 jobs, according to government data. The agency said the loan allowed it to restore full salaries that had been cut.

The coronavirus has ended big budget brand deals for some influencers, but the focus has shifted to engaging with a potentially bigger audience more authentically.

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COVID-19 also hurt some entertainment companies that rely on advertising revenue. Culver City-based Jukin Media, which licenses user-generated entertainment, said it applied for and received a $2.2 million loan to cover payroll costs and avoid laying off its 127-person staff.

“Like all companies in advertising, we’ve seen a significant dip in that source of revenue due to the pandemic, even while we’ve seen modest gains on the licensing side of our business,” Jukin said in a statement. “As a mid-sized, independent business, we have saved jobs in large part because we secured this assistance.”

Several companies in the exhibition industry also got loans, including the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre and ticket provider Atom Tickets.

Various nonprofit groups including the Grammy Museum Foundation, the Motion Picture & Television Fund, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation and the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco also obtained federal loans.

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Some of the loan applicants raised eyebrows.

West’s La Palma company, Yeezy, was approved for a PPP loan in the range of $2 million to $5 million, which helped retain 106 jobs. On July 4, West tweeted he was running for U.S. president.

A representative for West did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Media Matters for America, a liberal media watchdog group that has promoted advertiser boycotts against conservative hosts on Fox News, was approved for a loan of $1 million to $2 million to keep 64 jobs.


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