Media entrepreneur Neil Court and ZM Capital make equity investment in 9 Story Limited

Vince Commisso, Neil Court and Strauss Zelnick (CNW Group/9 Story Entertainment Inc.)

Producer of Arthur, Almost Naked Animals plans growth through acquisitions

TORONTO, July 13, 2014 /CNW/ - 9 Story Limited today announced that ZM Capital and former DHX Media principal and Decode Entertainment co-founder, Neil Court, have made an equity investment in the company, with Court becoming its Executive Chairman. The investment is being made out of ZM Capital II, the latest private equity fund of ZelnickMedia, a New York based investment firm focused on the media and communications sectors. Terms of the transaction, which closed on July 11, 2014, were not disclosed.

Vince Commisso continues as President and CEO, and will report to a newly formed board of directors. 9 Story's existing management team will continue to lead the company, while Court will carry out his Executive Chairman duties from his base in the U.K. 

Founded in 2002, 9 Story Limited is one of the industry's leading creators, producers and distributors of award-winning animated and live-action content for young audiences around the world.  The company has over 220 creative and production staff in its Toronto-based studio, and has produced over 900 half hours of quality children's and family programming.  9 Story distributes over 1600 half hours of content internationally, with popular programs like Daniel Tiger's Neighbourhood, Almost Naked Animals and Camp Lakebottom.

"9 Story has enjoyed fantastic organic growth over the last decade," said Vince Commisso, President & CEO of 9 Story Limited. "The CCI acquisition really opened our eyes to the potential impact that larger, acquisition-based transactions could have on our business.  With this new investment, we have the opportunity to become the largest pure play kids' content studio in the world. We are excited to welcome Neil and the partners at ZM Capital, people who share our vision, support our growth strategy, and who will serve as a tremendous resource for existing management."  

"I've been looking for new opportunities in children's media and 9 Story is the perfect fit," said Neil Court.  "9 Story has strong leadership, great creative talent, a disciplined approach to production and a top-notch client base. Vince and I share a vision of what we are looking to accomplish and we are excited about the incredible growth opportunities ahead."

"9 Story has an exceptional management team, an outstanding performance record in both production and distribution, and an impeccable reputation among its clients and partners," said Strauss Zelnick. "We have followed the company's impressive growth record over the years and are committed to supporting its future plans."

9 Story Limited is one of the industry's leading creators, producers and distributors of award-winning animated and live-action content for young audiences around the world.  With one of North America's largest animation studios based in Toronto, 9 Story has over 220 creative and production staff, and has produced over 900 half hours of quality children's and family programming, seen on some of the most respected children's channels around the world across multiple platforms.  The company's distribution arm represents a growing catalogue which includes several beloved brands such as Arthur, Wibbly Pig, Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars, Wild Kratts and Almost Naked Animals in addition to exciting new series such as Numb Chucks, Camp Lakebottom, Cache Craze, Daniel Tiger's Neighbourhood and Nerds and Monsters. Last year the company acquired CCI Kids, the family content division of CCI Entertainment, increasing 9 Story's portfolio to over 1600 half hours of content with popular shows such as Guess How Much I Love You, Joe & Jack, Artzooka! and Extreme Babysitting.   www.9story.com

About Neil Court
Neil is a seasoned international media entrepreneur with 33 years in the business. Based in the UK since 1991, Neil is also Chairman and co-owner of Peacock Alley Entertainment, a Toronto-based reality and scripted series production and distribution company he launched with Carrie Mudd in 2012.  Neil also remains an advisor and board member at Brown Bag Films, the Dublin-based CGI animation studio.

In 1997, Neil co-founded Toronto's Decode Entertainment, which became one of largest international suppliers of children's television series. When Decode became DHX Media in 2006 and went public, Neil became president of the international distribution subsidiary and was appointed to the DHX board of directors. He left DHX in 2009 but remained as a non-executive board member until 2011.

Before launching Decode, Neil had his own UK-based international consultancy business where his main clients included Film Roman, The Jim Henson Company as well as major European and American media companies such as MCA, BMG and PolyGram.

Neil started working in children's media in 1987, when he co-founded Nelvana Enterprises, the distribution and coproduction subsidiary of Nelvana (now part of Corus Communications), the major Canadian animation studio.   He left his position of Managing Director in 1993, having set up the Paris and London operations for the company.

About ZM Capital
ZM Capital is the private equity fund of ZelnickMedia, a New York based investment firm comprised of operating executives and investment professionals that invest exclusively in the media, entertainment and communications industries.  The firm is currently investing out of ZM Capital II and has interests in interactive entertainment, mobile communications software and services, digital media, broadcast advertising and entertainment services. www.zelnickmedia.com

SOURCE 9 Story Entertainment Inc.

Image with caption: "Vince Commisso, Neil Court and Strauss Zelnick (CNW Group/9 Story Entertainment Inc.)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140713_C3362_PHOTO_EN_4234.jpg

For further information: Jennifer Ansley, Vice President, Marketing & Communications, 9 Story Limited, +1 416 530-9900 ext 230, jennifera@9story.com