Former Cinar Corp. exec joins Portfolio Ent.

Louis Fournier aims to expand firm's int'l distribution reach

TORONTO -- After the "Cat in the Hat," Portfolio Entertainment has pulled out a rabbit with a flourish by hiring veteran Louis Fournier to take the Canadian indie distributor to the next level.

He has the credentials. Fournier was head of distribution at Cinar Corp., the creator of animated hits like "Arthur," "Caillou" and "Mona the Vampire," before the Canadian animation house, felled by a financial scandal, was sold in 2004 to a consortium led by former Nelvana co-founder Michael Hirsh and renamed the Cookie Jar Entertainment.

After moving from Montreal indie producers Galafilm to Tribal Nova, Fournier now lands in Toronto to fill the newly created post of vp sales and acquisitions at Portfolio Entertainment.

Portfolio, founded and run since 1991 by Joy Rosen and Lisa Olfman, has been a mainstay at the two MIPs and other TV markets but has never stood out with a calling-card series.

That changed when ITV's kids channel CITV picked up PBS Kids' preschool series "The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That" from Portfolio and British production partner Collingwood O'Hare Prods.

That deal was followed by Disney taking "Cat in the Hat," narrated by Martin Short, for Playhouse Disney channels in 40 markets.

Now Fournier, who helped Micheline Charest and Ronald Weinberg's Cinar achieve success before the founding duo's hubris brought about their downfall, is now looking to do the same at Portfolio.

"I know what a good property like 'Cat in the Hat' can do for a company," he said.

And Fournier knows what hiring an impact player can do for a company, if it has the will.

"A company poised for growth has to make decisions: Do we keep going as we are, or do we take the opportunity to go to the next level?" he said.

"The higher signal here is to go to the next level," Fournier added.

In his new post, Fournier will oversee multiplatform sales at Portfolio's distribution arm Portfolio International.

He will also expand Portfolio's international distribution reach in the kids, factual and lifestyle genres.

Portfolio is the latest Canadian indie producer like Entertaintment One and Muse Entertainment to expand, and not pull in their horns during the economic downturn, to meet continuing demand from international broadcasters for premium product.

"I'm not the last hire (Portfolio) will do," Fournier predicted.

And he added Portfolio will need to attract more properties like "Cat in the Hat," now that it has an aura at international TV markets.