NEWS - Monday, July 5, 2004

Acclaim Loses Two Big Licenses

Acclaim has lost the licenses attached to two of its major franchises, according to the publisher’s latest 10-K filing. The document, which runs down the publisher’s financial state in detail, confirms that Acclaim has at least temporarily lost hold of the rights to both the Turok franchise and Major League Baseball. In May 2004, the filing reads, Acclaim’s licensing agreement with the Major League Baseball Players’ Association -- which grants them the right to use real player names and likenesses in the All-Star Baseball sims -- was terminated for alleged nonpayment of royalties. Acclaim argues that it has fulfilled its obligations to the MLBPA and key players, but the situation is evidently still in dispute. Later, in June, Classic Media -- owner and manager of numerous pop-culture licenses, including the Turok: Dinosaur Hunter comicbook character -- notified Acclaim that its license to that character was also terminated due to failure to deliver royalty payments. Acclaim states that it is "in discussions with Classic in an effort to resolve this matter amicably." However, whether it will actually pick the license back up is an open question, since it has largely let the Turok franchise slip to the wayside after the poor commercial performance of 2002’s Turok: Evolution. The loss of the MLBPA license would be a more significant blow. The All-Star Baseball games have been critical and commercial successes for Acclaim in recent years, although improving competition from Electronic Arts and other publishers has squeezed its share of the market in the last two seasons. In light of this and other news today, Acclaim’s financial state is looking increasingly grim. Its annual financial report centered around the prospect of bankruptcy if it’s unable to secure new credit facilities by August 4, and the fiscal year ending March 31 saw it lose $56.4 million ($25.4 million in the fourth quarter alone). Financial analysts are currently speculating that it might find itself the target of a takeover from another publisher, although no hard news of such a deal has emerged as yet.


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