Sunday 23 October 2016

Oscar-nominated studio on hiring spree after multi-million-euro deal

Paul O'Donoghue

Published 19/08/2015 | 02:30

Brown Bag co-founder Cathal Gaffney
Brown Bag co-founder Cathal Gaffney
Some of the characters from Doc MacStuffins
Some characters from the Octonauts

Award-Winning studio Brown Bag Films will add about 50 people to its Dublin base after being acquired by a major North American studio in a multi-million euro deal.

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The studio will retain its brand and its existing senior management team, but will now be owned by Toronto- based 9 Story Media Group.

Brown Bag has received Oscar nominations for pictures such as 'Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty'.

It also produces television shows such as the highly successful 'Doc McStuffins'.

Cathal Gaffney, Brown Bag's co-founder and chief executive, said that the firm would be looking to recruit in the coming weeks.

"We should have 40 staff in Manchester by Christmas and there will be another 50 jobs in Dublin over the next eight months," he said.

"It's really like fitting two Lego bricks together. 9 Story is primarily 2D hand-drawn animation and we're primarily 3D computer animation, so it's a good fit.

"They have strength in distribution, licensing and merchandising that we don't have."


However, he stressed that Brown Bag would maintain its own brand and there will be no immediate changes in terms of management - with himself and co-founder Darragh O'Connell continuing to head up the firm in Dublin.

"We're not trying to dilute brands," he said. "If you look at Disney, they have different brands such as Pixar - we will still do what we do too. The business will still be run from here."

Investec Corporate Finance in Dublin advised Brown Bag Films on the deal.

Founded in 1994, Brown Bag currently employs about 170 staff, with the vast majority of those located in Dublin.

It also has about 15 workers at its 2D animation studio in Manchester which opened last November following an investment of €1m, and a handful of staff at post-production facilities in Los Angeles.

As well as producing its own original content, the company has also worked with some of the biggest animators in the media business - such as Disney and the BBC.

"We are exceptionally proud of what we have built as an Irish company," said co-founder Darragh O'Connell. "For the next part of our journey it makes total sense for us to join forces with 9 Story."

The CEO of 9 Story Media Group, Vince Commisso, was also enthused about the deal. "We are absolutely thrilled to be joining forces with Brown Bag Films. Cathal, Darragh and their team in Ireland have a well- established track record and an outstanding reputation for producing high quality animation."

The 9 Story Media Group is one of the largest animation studios in North America, employing about 250 staff. The company is based in Toronto and has produced 900 half hours of award-winning children's content.

Based on Brown Bag's most recently available public earnings, market sources estimate that the studio cost an eight-figure sum. The owners recently applied for unlimited status, putting the firm's finances beyond public scrutiny.

Brown Bag's most recent accounts show that after-tax profits at the firm rose by about a third to €1.5m in 2013 as revenues increased 6pc to €18.35m.

It is understood that revenues at Brown Bag are likely to hit about €20m by the end of 2015. 9 Story currently has revenues of about CAN$90m, or about €62.5m.

Irish Independent

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