Private equity firm APAX Funds wanted former Nickelodeon exec Jeffrey Dunn and corporate finance specialist Sangeeta Desai to turn around the UK-based children’s entertainment company behind Thomas & Friends, Barney, Bob The Builder, and Angelina Ballerina. They accomplished that goal in October when Mattel agreed to pay $680M for HIT. Here’s the company’s release:

Monday, 30 January. London: HIT Entertainment, one of the world’s leading independent children’s entertainment producers and rights-owners, today announced that the company’s President & CEO, Jeffrey Dunn, and Chief Operating Officer, Sangeeta Desai, will be leaving the company after the closing of HIT’s acquisition by Mattel.

Mr. Dunn, who has been leading the company since March 2008, when he was appointed by current owner APAX Funds and tasked with restoring the business and preparing it for future sale, will exit immediately following the closing of the acquisition. Ms. Desai, who became HIT’s COO in 2009, will depart following a short transition period.

Greg Dyke, HIT Entertainment’s Chairman, commented, “It has been a tremendous pleasure working with both Jeff and Sangeeta. They cared passionately about the business, the creative quality and the employees. They worked tirelessly to create a valuable company in difficult times and I wish them the very best.”

Christian Stahl, an Apax Director of HIT Entertainment, said, “We want to thank Jeff and Sangeeta for all that they did for the company. They recruited and led a highly talented team of exceptional executives. In addition to the strengthening of existing properties, HIT invested in successfully creating new ones under their leadership. We are pleased about the sale to Mattel which will be a good home for the HIT employees and brands.”

Mr. Dunn added, “I am very pleased to be turning over the stewardship of the wonderful HIT properties to a company of Mattel’s calibre. It has been an honour to have served as the company’s leader during a critical time in its history. I am very proud of what our team accomplished together during very challenging economic times. I look forward to seeing the continued success of some of the world’s greatest pre-school brands.”

Under Mr Dunn and Ms. Desai’s leadership, HIT’s brands have enjoyed much success over the past four years. ‘Thomas & Friends’ is the world’s number one pre-school toy property, leading the way in countries such as the UK and US and has emerged as the leading western pre-school property in Asia. ‘Fireman Sam’ now sits as the UK’s number two pre-school boys’ property following reinvigoration of its creative content and the appointment of a new master toy licensee. And, a commitment to investment in programme development has led to new property ‘Mike the Knight’ debuting as the number one show on CBeebies, achieving multiple sales to leading global broadcasters and securing a considerable licensee base.