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From Barrington Street record dealer to international deal broker

Darren Throop has come a long way from the days when he sold records from a small store on Barrington Street in Halifax.

Today, the CEO of Entertainment One, Throop is busy dealing with the aftermath of the deal announced last week in which he sold his company to a large U.S.-based toymaker for $4 billion.

Entertainment One, he says in an email sent to me on Wednesday, all started with Urban Sound Exchange in Halifax. Entertainment One has been described as an international acquisition, production and distribution of film and television content company based in Toronto but listed on the London Stock Exchange in Britain.

Throop told me in the email that he will be staying on to head eOne, after the sale is completed at the end of the year.

Some of its holdings include: The Hunger Games and Twilight film series, it owns Death Row Records, and through its Mark Gordon division television shows Grey’s Anatomy, Designated Survivor and The Rookie.

The biggest attraction for Hasbro in the deal is by far Peppa Pig, the hit children’s cartoon that generated $1.3 billion in retail revenue in fiscal 2018 and expected to have an even better result in 2019.

It wasn’t the first transaction Throop has pulled off during his career. He grew up on an Alberta dairy farm, without any formal business training, he told me during a 2012 interview on the set of Haven — an eOne television show being shot in Chester at that time — but he was always working on various business ideas even during high school.

Throop first came to Nova Scotia in 1991 after his wife, Tish, expressed a desire to return close to her Newfoundland roots. In an interview on the set of Haven, Throop told me Halifax was a compromise location — their two daughters were born during their 11 years in Nova Scotia.

Throop said he was just 27 when he opened Urban Sound Exchange, at first on Main Street in Dartmouth, but the business didn’t take off until he moved the store on Barrington Street.

The Halifax record shop was eventually sold to the CD Plus record chain in 1999 and Throop became vice-president of operations for it and sister company, Records On Wheels.

That company transformed into ROW, Canada’s largest wholesaler of CDs, DVDs and video games. Throop became president of ROW Entertainment in 2003.

ROW listed itself on the Toronto Stock Exchange as an income trust, which benefited shareholders at the time because it allowed taxes to be paid by the individual shareholders rather than corporately. But when the rules were changed by the federal government so that certain types of companies could not continue to operate as income trusts, it was devastating to ROW’s share price.

ROW was acquired in 2007 by British private-equity firm Marwyn Value Investors LP, which took the company private and changed the name to Entertainment One. Meanwhile, the company continued to grow, with the help of acquisitions.

In July 2007 it acquired Contender Entertainment, an independent film distributor in the U.K. By doing so it established a strong presence in the U.K. market. That same year it acquired Seville Pictures, a Canadian-based independent distributor of films.

Entertainment One gained a listing on the London Stock Exchange in 2008, with Marwyn relinquishing a minority share of the company. Marwyn slowly reduced its holding in the company and finally in 2015 sold its remaining interest to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which now holds a 17.89 per cent interest in eOne.

Entertainment One paid Throop 1.86 million British pounds, including salary and other benefits, for in fiscal 2018, according to the British newspaper The Guardian. His salary was set to rise to 950,000 British pounds in 2019 and increased by seven per cent next fiscal year. As of last fiscal year, it was reported that Throop holds about 10.5 million shares in eOne.

“Nova Scotia will always be a very important part of the eOne story — it’s where it all started. I’m grateful to the Nova Scotia community for its many years of support,” Throop said.

Since eOne is a public company, Throop said there is a limited of information he can divulge about the arrangement after the deal is completed.

“As we are still in the earliest stages, there is not much more I can say on that. eOne is a public company and together with the board, we are confident that this transaction brings strong value for our shareholders,” he wrote.

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