I've been reading a lot of the comments here and elsewhere on the Web about my recent sale of the TMNT property to Viacom, and a few repeated themes are emerging, almost all of them indicating a woeful lack of basic comprehension of business realities. I have been pondering whether I should try to respond to these comments in an effort to enlighten (as best I can), though I suspect that it could be the classic "exercise in futility", given the obvious absence of a common frame of reference. But I'll give it a shot.
1.) I just don't get all the negative crap that some people have spewed about Gary Richardson, CEO of Mirage. I've worked with the man for over fifteen years, and have found him to be an honest, ethical, hard-working person. We occasionally have not seen eye-to-eye, but that has usually been the result of the divergence of views predicated by the two very different career paths we each took after college, me as an artist/illustrator and Gary as (originally) an accountant. Kind of a left brain, right brain kind of thing.
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that, without Gary, Mirage may not have survived as long as it has. His level-headedness, knowledge of business, and facility with numbers -- among other skills -- really made a huge difference in the day-to-day running of Mirage. Gary also has an excellent memory and strong organizational skills, which -- if you are going to run a company like Mirage which owned a complex property like the TMNT, with hundreds of contracts with a wide range of licensees all over the world -- are absolutely necessary qualities. The work Gary has done to keep all of that stuff straight and running smoothly is, I think, vastly under-appreciated and poorly comprehended by many people, and particularly the world of TMNT fandom at large.
And the idea that this sale was some sneaky deal cooked up by Gary and somehow foisted upon me is not only ludicrous but insulting to all concerned. It is simply beyond stupid.
2.) Another oft-repeated comment is something to the effect of "Why'd you have to SELL it? Why didn't you just let somebody run it for you, while you went off and did whatever?"
I suppose there are some people in the world who have the ability to compartmentalize their lives in such a way as to be able to shut off concerns about certain key, important things. Personally, I have trouble doing that. It's actually a measure of the confidence I have had in Gary's competence at running Mirage that I was able to let go of concerns about many things having to do with the operation of the business. But there have always been certain aspects of the TMNT business that I could NOT let go of, and Gary understood this, and would always consult with me about them and get my "yes" or "no" before moving on them.
And these would be the things that, regardless of who took over running Mirage for me, I would STILL worry and fret about. It's just my nature. That's why the idea of a sale of the TMNT, with a clean, unequivocal relinquishment of all TMNT-associated responsibilities, was -- and is -- so appealing to me.
3.) Another common comment is that this deal "came out of nowhere" and "happened so fast". I can understand how it may have SEEMED that way to an outside observer, but nothing could be further from the truth. Not only has the idea, the concept of a sale of the TMNT been percolating in my brain for at least the last decade, the actual work on this deal with Viacom has been going on for many months. It was a complicated, grueling negotiation with thousands of details to consider. Even Gary came close to tearing his hair out several times.
And it is a generally-accepted fact of business that when you are negotiating this kind of deal, you don't talk about it in public until the deal is done. One of the things that has been tying my stomach in knots over the long course of this negotiation was that I could not tell my friends and fellow artists at Mirage about it, until roughly a week or so before the actual closing. That was tough.
4.) "You got ripped off -- TMNT's worth WAY more than 60 million!" This is another comment which has been repeated... of course, it is also one which is stated with no facts to back it up. Please keep in mind that I had consulted with smart advisers who know about this kind of stuff, who had studied and researched how to evaluate the dollar value of a property like TMNT in real-world terms.
In one sense, it's kind of flattering that people would think it's worth a lot more... but it also reveals a profound naiveté about the realities of business.
5.) One of the most aggravating comments is the one which can be summed up as "How could you sell TMNT?!!! I would never sell MY property!" That's a very interesting assertion. My immediate reaction is "Great... but come back to me after you've spent twenty-five years living and working with that property to the almost total exclusion of anything else, and then I just MIGHT be able to take you seriously."
People who make this type of comment just have no clue about what it is like to be involved like I was with a property like TMNT for so long. And it is that blithe cluelessness which allows them to make such bold claims.
Finally, I'd like to thank those people who have posted thoughtful comments on this blog in the last few days. It means a lot to see that many of you DO understand what I've done with this sale, and appreciate the many years of TMNT that have passed under the auspices of Mirage... and look forward to the future of TMNT with its new owner. -- PL