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Sanctuary Woods, Inc.

Overview

Sanctuary Woods Multimedia Corporation (SWMC) was a Canadian/USA based interactive media company founded in 1988 by Canadian financier Brian J. Beninger and his wife Toni. The Beningers, who had already founded a software company called Speakeasy Software as early as 1978, were also breeders of St. Bernards dogs, and the new company was named after the famous Sanctuary Woods kennel, operated by Beatrice Knight.

The company started in Kanata, Ont. and moved later on to Victoria, B.C. Originally the company focused on developing customized interactive business applications for corporations such as Northern Telecom and Bell-Northern Research, as well as for federal agencies.

The company went public in December 1991 (Vancouver Stock Exchange, and since September 1993 Nasdaq). In 1992 the company entered the media market when it launched two commercial CD-Rom titles, Victor Vector & Yondo: The Vampire’s Coffin and Shelley Duvall’s A Bird's Life.

In 1993 the company opened a U.S. headquarters in San Mateo, CA and appointed Scott A. Walchek (former Macromedia) as President and COO. Title development continued at the original Victoria location. In the same year the company acquired Mind F/X, Inc., which was followed by the acquisition of Magic Quest, Inc. in 1994 and Theatrix Interactive, Inc. in 1997.

In spite of these acquisitions, the company suffered losses in these years. In 1995, 34 titles were available for sale versus 24 in the previous year, including the new entertainment titles Buried in Time (developed by Presto) and Ripley's Believe It or Not!: The Riddle of Master Lu, and the education titles Franklin's Reading World and NFL Math. Though the net revenue in consumer titles doubled, the net loss was over 18 million dollars, about 2 ½ times the loss of 1994.

In January 1996, Charlotte J. Walker was appointed to the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of the company, in a period that the company experienced severe liquidity problems.

In May 1996 the Victoria studio (36-person) was sold to Disney Interactive for approximately $1.9 million, and it was announced that the company would focus development on its education product line. (The Disney part was dissolved in 2003.) As a consequence Orion Burger, the company’s second adventure game, was licensed to Eidos Interactive (in June 1996).

In July 1996 it was determined that the company no longer met the requirements for inclusion on the Nasdaq Small Cap Market, and the company's stock ceased trading on the National Small Cap Market and began trading on the OTC Bulletin Board.

In September the company announced that it would change its internet address from www.sanctuary.com to www.ah-hah.com on October 1, 1996. The site was conceived as a transaction-based website, at which children would be able to compete, play educational on-line programs, update their CD-ROM products and communicate with other children. In 1997, Sanctuary Woods made a showcase site for children and sport, the NFL Web site www.playfootball.com.

In these years various steps were taken to restructure its operations. Besides changes in senior management, a substantial reduction of employees took place, from 148 in December 1995 to 32 employees in March 1997. All attempts to improve operations and cash-flows didn’t bring the desired result. On July 6, 1999 the company filed for bankruptcy.

Trivia

Location of the Victoria Studio (until May 1996):

Sanctuary Woods Multimedia Corporation
1006 Government Street
Victoria, B.C., Canada V8W 1X7

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