U.S. hedge fund acquires stake in Thunderbird Entertainment

UPDATED: Voss Capital points to kids division Atomic Cartoons as a chance for "tremendous growth opportunities ahead."

A  Houston, Texas hedge fund has taken a slice of Thunderbird Entertainment Group.

Voss Capital has acquired 10.5% of outstanding shares of the Vancouver-based media company behind The Last Kids on Earth, Molly of Denali and Kim’s Convenience. 

In a release announcing the acquisition yesterday (Sept. 9), the fund said it is tapping the “strong tailwind for high quality content creators” coming from the rapidly expanding budgets of big streamers and studios.

In particular, analyst Taylor Henderson called out the company’s kids and family division Atomic Cartoons for “tremendous growth opportunities ahead as they have demonstrated the ability to acquire IP in a low-risk manner and successfully develop hit shows.”

“Over the past year, we have been impressed in our conversations with the Thunderbird team at every level and we look forward to continuing our engagement with management and the board in order to support our mission of unlocking value for all shareholders in the coming years,” said Travis Cocke, CIO of Voss, in the statement.

On Voss’s company website, Cocke explains the Voss Value Fund looks to target situations where investment “double in value within a three-year timeframe.”

Hints of news to ruffle feathers came in an Aug. 27 investors note from Thunderbird’s president and CEO Jennifer Twiner McCarron (pictured), which referenced both the M&A wave and that her company might be “uniquely positioned to benefit from the increasing tension in the marketplace.”

Twiner McCarron wrote: “On this note, we also have potential M&A opportunities on our mind. We aren’t looking at roll up plans, rather opportunities that are strategic and align with our company culture and values of creating award-winning, entertaining content made with integrity. As international streaming expansion continues to grow, Thunderbird looks to seize opportunities that grow with us.”

The focus, she said, would be “Asia and Europe (where the streamers need to go to increase subscriptions) because having ownership in these regions provides opportunities for our Consumer Products and Distribution Division.” Twiner McCarron could not be reached for comment at press time.

Thunderbird develops, produces and distributes animated, factual and scripted content for over 200 territories from offices in Vancouver, Ottawa and Los Angeles. In it’s Q3 filings, the company said “a substantial and growing portion” of its programming library has been licensed directly to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and iTunes.

During the pandemic, Thunderbird brought on new team members to work with its partners that also include NBCUniversal, Nickelodeon, PBS, GBH, Bell Media’s Discovery, APTN, Corus Entertainment, The Weather Channel and CBC.

The Atomic roster also includes Toronto’s Spin Master, Sony, AppleTV+, Teletoon, Treehouse, Cartoon Network, Walt Disney, Mattel, Warner Bros, Marvel and Microsoft.

The company recently unveiled a global distribution and consumer products division. Atomic –  Playback‘s Kids Production Company of the Year for 2020 – struck a worldwide licensing deal with Cyber Group Studios for Atomic’s animated Netflix series The Last Kids on Earth. Thunderbird also owns and operates factual prodco Great Pacific Media (GPM), which has recently branched into scripted content.

The company has seen a shift in its executive team in the last 12 months, with Mark Miller stepping down as president at the end of 2020 and Twiner McCarron taking dual roles. Miller initially stayed on as an an executive producer of GPM, but departed the company five months later.