Matthew Miller
Apr 3, 2012

Steven Yung takes over cartoon-content company Imagi International

HONG KONG - Imagi International Holdings, the Hong Kong-listed company that owns popular cartoon franchise Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf (喜羊羊与灰太狼), has named Steven Yung (戎子江), former director and chairman of Clear Media, as its new executive deputy chairman, executive director, and chief executive officer.

Steven Yung takes over cartoon-content company Imagi International

Effective 1 April, Yung replaces Soh Szu Wei, who resigned as CEO but remains on as a senior advisor until 30 June. In addition to its strong intellectual property, Imagi boasts recent broadcasting and product licensing deals with Disney, but Yung faces the challenge of turning it into a profitable enterprise and sustaining its growth.

"Imagi is an indigenous operation, with world-class quality," Yung told Campaign Asia-Pacific during his second day on the job, adding that he looks forward to building on the company's momentum and taking it to the next level across Asia.

Steven Yung

On 30 March Imagi reported revenue of US$15 million (HK$117 million) for the nine months ending 31 December 2011. The company lost $8.7 million for the period—a vast improvement over the prior fiscal year, during which the company recorded only $1.1 million in revenue and lost $80.3 million.

Imagi bought the Pleasant Goat franchise early last year by acquiring Toon Express for $104.9 million in cash plus a percentage of profits in 2011 and 2012. Yung reports that the fourth installment of the characters' annual Chinese New Year film series has brought in $26.3 million so far.

"With the recent acquisition of all intellectual properties of the number one cartoon characters in China, Imagi aims to be a world-class media and entertainment powerhouse via innovative products and services," Yung said. "We will unlock the value of iconic cultural assets indigenous to Asia."

The films have recorded healthy growth each year, starting with the first movie, which brought in $12.7 million in 2009. On television, the characters have chalked up more than 800 episodes, and Imagi licensed merchandising rights to Disney Enterprises in January 2011—a move that has resulted in 41 new licensees, 16 new contracts, 2,869 new product designs, and at least $13.6 million in revenue over the next two to three years, according to Imagi.

On 27 March of this year, the company announced that Disney's Buena Vista International has licensed 100 episodes of the program for broadcast across 46 Asia-Pacific territories, including Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and South East Asia. The programming will be translated into more than 20 different languages, including four different dialects in India.

Yung, who served as president of ACNielsen Media International from 1998 through 2001, has also held senior positions at Coca-Cola in the US and Asia. He makes an analogy between Coke's universal appeal and that of Imagi's characters. "The instincts of the characters are universal," he said. "They have human emotions, which cuts across all borders and cultures. Plus, they are wholesome, full of positive energy. It's about fighting all the big, bad wolves in your life, and it's all proudly made in China."

Yung's principal business objective will be to "connect the capital markets to the excitement of the company" and its content. "I'm thrilled with the opportunity to unlock the value of something original, created and made here," Yung said. "I'm bringing my 'glocal' track record and knowledge to lead the company to new heights."

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