Thomas Haffa

After leaving school Haffa went to work at a BMW factory and then at 21 he joined IBM and became a door-to-door salesman. He stayed for seven years but in 1979 he joined Leo Kirch to develop the media magnate's home video business. He rose quickly through the ranks at Kirch and by 1989 was in charge of home videos, music publishing and merchandising operations. That year he left Kirch to form EM.TV, acquiring the German language rights to an assortment of cartoon characters from the Hanna Barbera company. EM.TV's growth was dramatic and he soon began selling English-language cartoons to TV stations all over the world. Haffa's success was built not only on revenues from TV but also from selling the characters he copyrighted in every possible form, notably through toys, books, games, videos and clothing. The properties under his control include the European rights to Elvis Presley, James Bond, Nintendo, Popeye, the Ninja Turtles, the Pink Panther, Betty Boop and Woody Woodpecker. Haffa also began to produce his own cartoons, notably Tabaluga, a German version of Barney. In partnership with Kirch he started Junior TV, a cartoon network for children and an early listing on the Neuer Markt in Frankfurt enabled Haffa to fund an impressive series of acquisitions which culminated in the purchase of the Jim Henson Company (owners of The Muppets) for $680m in 2000.

Haffa then paid $1.6bn for 50% of the holding company of Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Holdings but EM.TV ran into trouble at the end of 2000 when its share price fell dramatically and Haffa was forced to hand over the F1 shares to Leo Kirch.