Inside Licensing News and Notes, July 11, 2018

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Byrnwood Partners Buying J.M.Smucker’s Baked Goods Business

Byrnwood Partners agreed to buy J.M. Smuckers’ baked goods business, including a royalty-free perpetual license with General Mills for the Pillsbury brand. The $375 million acquisition also includes the Funfetti (cake mix), Hungry Jack (potato mix), White Lily (flour), Jim Dandy (grits) and Martha White (cornbread, muffin mixes) brands. Smucker has been seeking a buyer for the business since March; it generated $370 million in revenue in the year ended April 30. Smucker acquired the Pillsbury license and other brands in buying International Multifood Corp. for $840 million in 2004. International Multifood also had a license for Pillsbury. General Mills has several licensees for the Pillsbury brand.


Byrnwood Partners, Hendrik Hartom, CEO, 203-622-1790

J.M. Smucker, Tina Floyd, VP Marketing Consumer Foods, 330-682-3000


Kroger Readying ‘Dip’ Apparel

Kroger Corp. is replacing its current private label line with its new Dip brand men’s, women’s, junior’s, children’s and infant apparel that will launch this fall across 300 Kroger Marketplace and Fred Meyer stores. Dip was developed by fashion designer Joe Mimran, who previously developed Club Monaco, Pink Tartan and Joe Fresh (for Canadian retailer Loblaw’s). Fred Meyer and Kroger Marketplace have sold apparel before, but the new strategy is part of an effort to add more profitable brands, a Kroger spokeswoman told us in December when the chain unveiled plans for a new private label.


Kroger, Robert Clark, SVP Merchandising, 513-762-4000,


Cirque de Soleil Agrees to Buy VStar Entertainment

Cirque de Soleil Entertainment acquired live entertainment company VStar, expanding its roster of children’s and family shows. The purchase, terms of which weren’t disclosed, is Cirque du Soleil’s “first step” in targeting children and families, Cirque CEO Daniel Lamarre said in a statement.

“We are firmly establishing ourselves in the kids and family segment,” Lamarre said.

The acquisition also comes as Cirque prepares to open the first of several Creactive family entertainment centers, starting in Toronto, Canada in 2019.

VStar, based in Fridley, MN, has 120 employees, and last year produced the “Paw Patrol Live Race to the Rescue” show that made stops in 250 cities in 18 countries in 2017. It also signed with Nickelodeon to produce the “Bubble Guppies Live! Ready to Rock” and has handled licensed live shows for properties such as Sesame Street, Curious George, The Muppets, Dragon Tales and Barney and Friends.

“We now find ourselves on the brink of our next chapter and only a global producer like Cirque du Soleil could help us achieve our vision,” VStar CEO Eric Grilly said in a statement.

Blue Star Media, backed by AUA Private Equity Partners, purchased Vee Corp. in 2015, renamed itself VStar Entertainment and hired Grilly as CEO a year later. Cirque, in moving to expand its business, acquired the Blue Man Group last year.


Cirque du Soleil Entertainment, Robynn Delin, 800 678-2119 x5830,

VStar, Eric Grilly, CEO, 763-324-7889.


Bed, Bath & Beyond Weighs Closing Some Stores

Bed, Bath & Beyond could close up to 40 stores this year across its various brands unless it gets “more favorable lease terms,” CFO Robyn D’Elia told analysts. The chain, which also operates Cost Plus World Market, Christmas Tree Shops, One Kings Lane and Buy Buy Baby, has nearly 400 locations with leases that expire during the next two years, including 270 Bed Bath & Beyond stores, CEO Steven Temares said. “This provides us with tremendous flexibility to negotiate improved lease terms, relocate stores to more favorable locations and/or close stores,” Temares said. At the same, it  plans to remodel 35 stores by spring 2019 as it expands its assortment of decorative furnishings, and adds furniture vignettes. The vignettes have so far been installed to 78 stores. Online home furnishings retailer One Kings Lane, which Bed Bath & Beyond acquired in 2016, also is opening its first brick-and-mortar location in New York’s Soho section this fall.


Bed Bath & Beyond, Todd Johnson, Chief Merchandising Officer, 908-688-0888,

Executive Changes

Peter Maule, ex-Nitro Circus, joins Marquee Brands as SVP Sports and Active… Matthew Klein, ex-Forbidden Planet, named Sales Director at Valiant Entertainment… Sesame Workshop promotions: Steve Youngwood, COO and EVP for Media and Education, named President of Media and Education; Sherrie Rollins Westin, formerly EVP Global Impact and Philanthropy, named President of Global Impact and Philanthropy… Dunkin’ Donuts U.S. President David Hoffman named CEO, replacing Nigel Travis, who is retiring…


Marquee Brands, Peter Maule, SVP Sports and Active, 323-476-4157

Sesame Workshop, Steve Youngwood, COO and EVP Media and Education, 212-595-3456,

Valiant Entertainment, Matthew Klein, Sales Dir., 212-972-0361,