Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz are exiting Magical Elves, the production company behind hits such as Top Chef, Project Runway and Nailed It, which they co-founded in 2001. The Emmy-winning producers will remain partners and are expected to launch a new company as as independent producers. Meanwhile, Magical Elves will remain a part of Tinopolis USA, the U.S. subsidiary of UK-based Tinopolis Group, which acquired the company in 2014.
It is a common practice for the founders of a successful production company that sells to leave when the five-year post-acquisition period, during which they are required to stay on, is up, and they go on to launch a new company with the goal of building it and eventually selling it.
Their departure comes as the owners of Tinopolis, which owns a slew of British production companies including Question Time producer Mentorn and Mums Make Porn producer Firecracker Films, are once again keen to sell.
Deadline understands that, last year, French superindie Lagadere was days away from buying the group, but that price was a final stumbling block. Sony Pictures Television is also believed to have taken a look at the end of last year, but again that move came to nothing.
In 2017, the company, which counted Arwel Rees as CEO and Ron Jones as Executive Chairman, bought the company back from investment firm Vitruvian, which had originally invested in 2008. However, they have struggled to find new backers. It is thought that a number of the key board members are looking for an exit to secure their retirement and are asking for multiples that other TV businesses are unwilling to pay.
Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz will continue to work on all existing Magical Elves shows, including hit series Top Chef, currently airing on Bravo; the rebooted Project Runway on Bravo; Nailed It and Sugar Rush for Netflix; Braxton Family Values for WE tv; Cold Justice for Oxygen.
Fellow veteran unscripted producer Arthur Smith, who also had sold his company, A. Smith & Co., to Tinopolis and serves as Chairman of Tinopolis USA in addition to being CEO of A. Smith & Co., will take oversight of Magical Elves.
In a joint statement, Tinopolis Group Founder and Chairman Ron Jones and CEO Arwel Rees noted, “Tinopolis is home to many of the industry’s most successful and respected producers, in the US and across the globe, and Dan and Jane have been tremendous contributors since our acquisition of Magical Elves in 2014. Against the backdrop of a continually evolving business, they have consistently helped us deliver thousands of hours of quality content as part of a world-class team. Dan and Jane’s creativity and professionalism have been their hallmark and those values will continue to be nurtured within Magical Elves through this transition and beyond.”
Added Cutforth and Lipsitz, “It would have been hard to imagine when we started the company that we’d be this fortunate with our partners and collaborators, from incredibly smart and supportive distribution partners, and amazing talent, to a gifted team of producers, production staff and employees – and of course the team at Tinopolis. We’re proud to have created a culture of collaboration and risk-taking, so core to the success of the work we all do. As independent producers, we’re excited to continue telling stories that showcase extraordinary, creative people and innovative voices. We are grateful to Tinopolis for being great partners on every front, for their consideration in respecting our choice, and for working with us on a transition that puts our shows and talent first.”
Since founding Magical Elves, Cutforth and Lipsitz have won Emmys for both Top Chef (Bravo) and its digital counterpart Last Chance Kitchen, a Peabody for Project Runway in 2007 and an IDA award for Time of Death (Showtime). Other credits include: Nailed It (Netflix), Sugar Rush (Netflix) Top Chef Junior (Universal Kids), Project Greenlight (HBO), Cold Justice (Oxygen), Braxton Family Values (WE), and Fashion Star (NBC). Feature films include Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Katy Perry: Part of Me and Under The Electric Sky, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and the Tim McGraw and Faith Hill concert documentary, Soul 2 Soul (Showtime).