4Kids Entertainment was the first dubbing company that dubbed Pokémon into English dialogue. They first dubbed at TAJ Productions up until the final episode of Season 5 when 4Kids took their own recording studio as of the first episode of Season 6. 4Kids regularly produced eight 52-episode seasons that aired on Kids' WB! (and for 40 episodes of season 1, most of the season, in broadcast syndication). Starting from Season 9 and onwards, Pokémon USA (now The Pokémon Company International, or TPCi) took over for the dubbing and distribution of the anime, replacing different voice actors. In April 2011, 4Kids filed for bankruptcy. However, as of December 21, 2012, 4Kids exited their bankruptcy. 4Kids was reincorporated as 4Licensing Corporation.
Leisure Concepts was co-founded on April 28, 1970, by Mike Germakian (later who would be known as one of the creators of ThunderCats) and Stan Weston (the creator of G.I. Joe and Captain Action), as an independent licensing agency in New York City. Mike Germakian was the secretary of LCI, while Stan Weston was initially the President and later the Chairman of Leisure Concepts. Weston was also the Treasurer of the company.
1970-1990: Early Beginnings
In the beginning the company pitched toy and cartoon ideas to various companies, as well as formed partnerships with companies such as Rankin Bass, among others.
LCI began making news in the 1980s through licensing actual people, a variety of products, and even concepts. The company also had a growing number of deals with television producers and toy manufacturers. Among the company's licenses at the time were Farrah Fawcett of Charlie's Angels fame, Charlie Chan, James Bond 007, a wide array of Nintendo characters and products, the Hulk, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV Series and many others.
In July of the late 80s, Alfred Kahn, former Executive Vice President of Marketing at Coleco, who was credited for bringing the Cabbage Patch Kids to the Mainstream, joined the company as Vice Chairman and a Member of the Board of Directors. On December 17, 1987, LCI signed a licensing deal with Nintendo of America, Inc. to market the software products that went along with its increasingly popular gaming systems. Nintendo had already introduced The Legend of Zelda for its home video game system, a software product that went on to sell more than one million copies during the year. Some time in 1987 the company also signed a licensing deal to market Star Wars.
1990-2000: Company expansion and name change
The 1990s were seen as turning point for the company. In the early 1990s, LCI expanded its operations and began television production in 1992. This would include English-dubbing Japanese anime through its subsidiary 4Kids Productions, which the company would be mostly known for. In 1987, Robert Kotick (now President and CEO of Activision Blizzard) tried to acquire Commodore International. When Kotick was unsuccessful, he instead purchased a controlling stake in LCI thus also becoming LCI's CEO and Chairman in June 1990. Kotick later traded out of his stake in LCI and bought a 25% stake in Activision in December 1990. In March 1991, Kotick became CEO at Activision. On March 12, 1991, LCI appointed Alfred Kahn as its Chairman and CEO.
In 1992, two subsidiaries were established by the company:The Summit Media Group, Inc. and 4Kids Productions. The company changed its name from Leisure Concepts Inc. to 4kids Entertainment Inc. on November 16, 1995. Although the company changed its name,"Leisure Concepts" still operated as a separate subsidiary of the company, meaning the company may have decided to use the "Leisure Concepts" name for branding purposes.
2000-2005: The new millennium & television
The new century found 4Kids Entertainment Inc., switching from the NASDAQ market and joining the New York Stock Exchange on September 20, 2000. The firm's new ticker symbol was KDE and the company was riding high during the continuing success of "Pokemon" when it earned Fortune's top slot on its 100 Fastest Growing Companies for 2000.
In October 2001, 4Kids Entertainment acquired a 3% stake In The Pokémon Company, in a move to benefit indirectly from Pokémon's success in Asia, and from worldwide sales of Pokémon electronic cards and video games.
2005-2010: Teen/adult licensing, further expansion, & financial failings
On October 10, 2005, 4Kids Entertainment sold its 3% stake in The Pokémon Company for US$960,000, to the three parties owning the rights to Pokémon (Nintendo, Creatures and Game Freak) On December 23, 2005, the company announced that it will not renew the Pokémon representation agreement set to expire on December 31, 2005. And that beginning in 2006, Pokémon USA, Inc.'s in-house licensing group will handle all Pokémon licensing outside of Asia. However the company will continue to receive commissions for the next several years, on payments made under existing Pokémon license agreements whose term expires after December 31, 2005. On April 18, 2006, 4Kids launched a new subsidiary entitled 4Sight Licensing Solutions Inc., which licenses and market brands aimed at adults, teenagers and pre-teens. "We have built an impressive roster of captivating and successful children's entertainment properties," said Alfred Kahn. "Given the increased number of brands that we are representing that focus on an older audience, we felt it would be beneficial to organize a new subsidiary primarily devoted to the marketing and licensing of these brands. We believe that we can successfully utilize our marketing and licensing expertise to build brand value for properties targeting an older consumer that are not necessarily media or character driven."
On October 2, 2007, Warner Bros. and CBS announced that the Kids' WB programming block on their co-owned network, The CW, would be ending in 2008, and no longer be marketed and produced in-house, due to factors including building children's advertising and marketing restrictions, and cable competition. Rights for the five-hour Saturday morning block were bought by 4Kids, and they began to program the time with their own programming (mixed in with three former Kids' WB originals) in September 2008. Because of this additional deal, 4Kids provided programming for both The CW and Fox in the 2008–09 season giving 4Kids nine hours of combined children's programming on two broadcast networks, as 4KidsTV ran until December 27, 2008. The new block, The CW4Kids, started May 24, 2008. The CW4Kids was renamed to Toonzai starting on August 14, 2010. Even though 4Kids TV was discontinued as it was online only, this programming block continued to use the CW4Kids name, to reflect to the network it airs on. The Toonzai block ended on August 18, 2012, but a week later, the block was replaced by Vortexx, which ran as a final Saturday morning cartoon block on The CW from August 25, 2012 to September 27, 2014 before being replaced by One Magnificent Morning on October 4, 2014. The "Toonzai" brand name is similar to Cartoon Network's action animation block "Toonami", which aired briefly on The CW4Kids's predecessor, Kids' WB from July 2001 to June 2002.
On November 10, 2008, 4Kids Entertainment announced that it would exit its contract with Fox and terminate its Fox programming block by the end of 2008. The final broadcast of 4Kids TV on Fox was on December 27, 2008. On December 17, 2008, 4Kids Entertainment announced that it is laying off about 15% of its workforce due to the worsening economic environment, and financial situation at the company.
2010-2012: NYSE delisting, resignation, Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit, & bankruptcy
On May 28, 2010, the company announced that New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) trading in its common stock would be suspended prior to the opening of trading on Tuesday, June 1, 2010, thus effectively delisting the company from the New York Stock Exchange. Beginning June 1, 2010, the company began trading under the new stock symbol "KIDE" on the OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB) market.
On January 11, 2011, the company announced that Alfred Kahn, the CEO and Chairman of the Company since March 1991, had left the company. Michael Goldstein, a member of the company's Board of Directors since March 2003, was appointed interim Chairman, while the company was conducting a search for a new CEO.
On March 29, 2011, TV Tokyo and Nihon Ad Systems (NAS) sued 4Kids Entertainment, alleging that the company entered into illegal agreements with other companies, including Funimation Entertainment and Majesco Entertainment, regarding the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime franchise. TV Tokyo claimed that those agreements allowed 4Kids to collect royalties without paying a portion of those royalties to TV Tokyo, which violates their original agreement. The companies are seeking almost $5 million in "underpayments, wrongful deductions, and unmet obligations." As part of the suit, the companies terminated the Yu-Gi-Oh! license from 4Kids. Neither Funimation nor Majesco are listed as defendants in the case.
4Kids Entertainment informed the licensors on March 27, 2011, that their termination letter was "wrongful and devoid of any factual and legal basis," and that they had not given 4Kids 10 days notice as required. 4Kids further revealed that they had made a good-faith payment of $1 million and agreed to a March 18 meeting in lieu of a lawsuit, which TV Tokyo and NAS nevertheless decided to go ahead with. The company also stated that even if the termination is found to be valid, the company is prepared to do whatever it takes to stay in business. 4Kids filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as of April 6, 2011. 4Kids requested that the court suspend co-licensor Asatsu DK's attempts to exercise control of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise in the United States, particularly in terms of selling the rights to the latest anime series, Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, which was due to be pitched at the Licensing International Expo on June 14. However, on June 2, 2011, bankruptcy judge Shelley Chapman issued a court order on TV Tokyo and NAS for an automatic stay on the U.S. Yu-Gi-Oh! license and said that the trial will proceed in two phases. The first phase is whether the contractual termination was valid, and the second is how much money 4Kids would owe the companies. The first phase of the trial began on August 29, 2011.
On October 27, 2011, 4Kids and the executives of former financial company Lehman Brothers reached a deal, after Lehman had improperly invested most of 4Kids funds in auction rate securities. 4Kids received $500,000 from the deal. Chapman later ruled that the Yu-Gi-Oh! license is still in effect due to TV Tokyo, NAS and ADK not terminating the agreement properly. On February 29, 2012, there was an amicable settlement of the lawsuit between 4Kids Entertainment and Asatsu-DK (ADK) and TV Tokyo over the license of the Yu-Gi-Oh! property. On May 1, 2012, Kidsco Media Ventures LLC, an affiliate of Saban Capital Group, placed a bid to acquire some of 4Kids' assets, including the US rights to the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise and The CW4Kids block, for $10 million. On June 5, 2012, 4Kids commenced an auction between Kidsco and 4K Acquisition which was then adjourned so 4Kids, Kidsco, and 4K Acquisition could consider an alternative transaction. On June 15, 2012, 4Kids filed a notice outlining a proposed deal in which its assets would be divided between Kidsco and 4K Acquisition which was finalized on June 26, 2012. The deal saw 4K Acquisition acquire the US rights to the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise and KidsCo acquire 4Kids' other anime assets including DBZ, Sonic X, and Cubix and The CW Network's Toonzai Saturday morning programming block.
On August 14, 2012, it was announced through a quarterly report that 4Kids Entertainment had discontinued operations of four operating divisions: 4Kids Ad Sales Inc., 4Kids Productions Inc., 4Kids Entertainment Music Inc., and 4Kids Entertainment Home Video, Inc. due to their continued lack of profitability. On September 13, 2012, it was revealed through a quarterly report that on August 16, 2012, the Board of Directors of 4Kids Entertainment determined to discontinue the operations of its UK subsidiary, 4Kids Entertainment International Ltd., which became effective on September 30, 2012. On December 5, 2012, 4Kids Entertainment announced that it had ended a dispute (over the so-called Pokémon agreement) with The Pokémon Company International under which TPCi will get a $1 million general unsecured claim against the debtor.
2012-2017: Reorganization and bankruptcy
A meeting was scheduled on December 13, 2012, to confirm 4Kids' plan to exit Bankruptcy. The same day, The New York bankruptcy judge sent 4Kids Entertainment Inc. on its way out of Chapter 11 protection Thursday, overruling an objection by the American Kennel Club Inc. over a licensing agreement and approving its reorganization plan, which calls for the full payment of claims.
On December 21, 2012, 4Kids Entertainment was reincorporated as 4Licensing Corporation. On September 21, 2016, 4Licensing Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy plan became effective on February 7, 2017.
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