The leading Russian private equity firm Baring Vostok Capital Partners (BVCP) is in final negotiations to acquire almost 50% of Riki Group, company that owns rights to the popular Russian cartoon series for children, Smeshariki, reported newspaper Kommersant. BVCP valued the company at $90 million and is close to purchase 45%-47% of the group and provide it with $10-15 million loan, the newspaper said.
First aired on CTC channel in Russia in July 2004, Smeshariki totals 260 episods. The cartoon series is filmed by animation studio Peterburg in St. Petersburg. Riki Group publishes educational computer games, books, and magazines. The group licensed its characters to more than 40 producers of goods for children and sells goods in a chain of 12 stores operating under the Smeshariki brand. The total sales of goods with Smeshariki names reached $190 million in 2009.
The Smeshariki (Смешарики) name is derived from “smeshnye shariki” (funny little balls). Smeshariki are stylized rounded animals. Each of the ten characters has a unique personality and range of interests. There are no negative characters among them. Their interactions are similar to the ones that children may encounter in their everyday lives.
In the U.S., Smeshariki is known as GoGoRiki and distributed by 4Kids Entertainment. The series was first aired in fall 2008.
In 2009, the creators of Smeshariki were awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation.