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Disney Buys Toy Maker, Publisher Baby Einstein

November 07, 2001|RICHARD VERRIER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Walt Disney Co. has acquired Baby Einstein Co., a maker of award-winning toys, books and videos for babies and toddlers, in a bid to cash in on the expanding developmental learning market.

Terms of the transaction were not released, nor were financial figures on closely held Baby Einstein.

The Lone Tree, Colo.-based business, founded in 1996 by former English and art teacher Julie Aigner-Clark, sells books, compact discs and videos that expose babies to poetry, language, music and art. Its video titles include "Baby Mozart" and "Baby Shakespeare."

The acquisition signals Disney's increasing push into learning products for infants and toddlers--an industry that has grown in double digits in recent years.

Baby Einstein recently launched a collection of books and toys with Disney Publishing Worldwide and toy maker Hasbro Inc.

Disney, which publishes 275 children's magazines and 120 million children's books annually, is one of the world's largest publishers of children's materials.

"The acquisition of Baby Einstein provides Disney with another high-quality brand franchise which serves one of our core customer segments--families with small children," Disney President Bob Iger said.

The acquisition is Disney's third this year. In February it bought a half stake in US Weekly, an entertainment magazine, and recently closed its $5.2-billion purchase of Fox Family Worldwide.

"We see this as a multimedia franchise," said Russell Hampton, vice president of corporate development for Disney.

Disney plans to extend Einstein's "Baby" series products to a "Little" series for preschoolers, set to launch late 2002. Aigner-Clark, mother of two, and her husband, William Clark, will serve as consultants to Disney.

Baby Einstein's products have won several awards. The firms newest video titles, "Neighborhood Animals" and "World Animals," are winners of Parenting Magazine's Best Videos of 2001 awards.

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