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Comics A.M. | NECA to acquire Hastings in $21.4 million deal

Hastings

Hastings

Retailing | Hastings Entertainment, which operates a chain of 149 stores that sells books, comics, video games and more, has announced a $21.4 million agreement to merge with two companies owned by Joel Weinshanker, president and sole shareholder of Wizkids parent National Entertainment Collectibles Association; Weinshanker already holds 12 percent of Hastings’ outstanding shares.

“NECA is a significant supplier of movie, book and video game merchandise and collectibles to the Hastings superstores, and we’ve had a close and growing business relationship with Mr. Weinshanker over the last decade,” John H. Marmaduke, Hastings’ chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Mr. Weinshanker, through his affiliation with the estates of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali, and his company’s management of Graceland, is one of the leading drivers of the lifestyle industry, and we believe Hastings’ business will continue to benefit from our relationship with him and NECA.” Marmaduke will retire with a $1.5 million cash payout once the merger is approved. The announcement was followed by press releases from two New York City law firms that say they’re investigating the plan on behalf of Hastings shareholders. [press release]

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Comics A.M. | Comic sales slide slows; Thor press kit triggers bomb scare

Fear Itself #1

Publishing | The drop in year-over-year sales in the direct market slowed in April, with periodicals slipping 1.75 percent and graphic novels just .84 percent. Overall sales were down 1.46 percent for April and 6.5 percent for the first four months of the year. Marvel topped Diamond’s comics chart with Fear Itself #1, while DC led the graphic novel category with the 15th volume of Fables. [ICv2.com]

Crime | Police evacuated the bus terminal in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, Friday afternoon after a suspicious package was discovered across the street. The Michigan State Police bomb squad was called in, and it was determined the mysterious package was merely a briefcase-shaped media kit promoting Acura’s involvement with Marvel’s Thor. A writer for Automobile, whose offices are next to the terminal, had discarded the “S.H.I.E.L.D. Assessment Test” kit in the recycling bin, but it wasn’t picked up — apparently because it isn’t recyclable. [WXYZ, Jalopnik]

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Hastings

Hastings

Retailing | Responding to a shrinking retail market for music, the Texas-based entertainment-media chain Hastings will begin selling Diamond-distributed comic books in 127 of its 147 stores. Hastings operates stores in medium-sized markets in 20 states, selling new and used books, electronics, DVDs, video games — and, now, monthly comics.

As we noted in March, the company reported “strong results” from a tested comics expansion in two stores in 2009, and planned to expand further into another 20 existing locations by the second quarter of this year. Now, company executive James Parker tells Rich Johnston, the retailer is moving forward with two expansion models, with 27 locations sporting 32 feet of new releases, 32 feet of back issues, and 44 feet of manga and graphic novels. One hundred outlets will feature a small expansion, with 16 linear feet of each. As Johnston points out, it appears that Hastings is “about to become the largest buyer of monthly comics in America.” He has reactions from a handful of direct-market retailers. [Bleeding Cool]

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