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Peter Orton, RIP

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Peter Orton, founder of Britain’s HIT Entertainment, has died. He was 64.

Orton’s career in children’s programming began at Television International Enterprises, where he successfully sold episodes of Sesame Street in Africa and Asia. That led to positions at Sesame Street producer Children’s Television Workshop, where he further developed CTW’s international productions. Prior to setting up HIT Entertainment, he worked at The Jim Henson Company.

Under Orton, HIT developed such properties as Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine. The company was sold to Apax Partners in 2005, and Orton retired. He then helped develop the Children’s Party, a celebration of children’s books that was held at Buckingham Palace as part of Queen Elizabeth’s eightieth birthday party in 2006. In recognition of his contributions to children’s literacy, he was appointed to the Royal Victorian Order as a Commander (CVO) in 2007. He also received two Lifetime Achievement Awards, the first from the British Academy of Film & TV Arts in 2002, and the second from Marche Internationale de Television in 2005.

Orton was diagnosed with cancer eleven years ago, and donated a substantial part of his wealth to The Head & Neck Cancer Research Trust.

[Sources: PeterOrton.com; Gazette & Herald; The Hollywood Reporter; World Screen]