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TOTAL LICENSING
MICHAEL JACKSON
The biggest-ever celebrity estate licensing program?
David Reeder, Vice President of organizing the singer’s comeback in tential for the Michael Jackson brand
GreenLight in Los Angeles, oversees London. is extraordinary.
the company’s media licensing and Jackson’s will was fairly clear. Eighty “I would argue that Michael was a
clearance activities in North America percent of his estate was bequeathed far bigger star than Elvis was,” he ex-
and Europe. He knows the celebrity to his mother and his three children plained. “Michael’s
business and, more importantly, he with the remainder benefitting chil- music spanned
understands the brand value of ce- dren’s charities. And this, to an extent, over forty years
lebrities – both dead and alive. His makes the commercial aspects some- and his appeal was
current roster of celebrity estate cli- what simpler. Jackson’s estate, whilst far wider than that
ents include Albert Einstein, Steve Mc- having assets reportedly over $500 of Elvis”.
Queen, Johnny Cash and the Wright million, also had debts of between Reeder doesn’t
Brothers. $200 and $300 million which needed believe that the
So, when David told us recently that servicing. To this end, only six weeks controversy that
he is convinced that the value of Mi- after his death, a Los Angeles judged surround Jackson
chael Jackson licensing and merchan- signed off on a film project featuring will have an im-
dising deals will eclipse those of all the singer’s final rehearsals and prepa- pact on his future
other deceased celebrities – including rations for his comeback concerts. brand potential. “The moment he
world-leading celebrity estate Elvis Columbia Pictures paid $60 million for died, people started to play his music
Presley – naturally we took notice! the rights which also include a movie and forgot about the negatives in his
Jackson’s death on 25 June sent shock- soundtrack as well as a director’s cut life. And for many, when they saw his
waves around the world. On the point DVD. In addition Bravado was granted daughter pay that heartfelt tribute to
of embarking on his well-publicised the rights to market Jackson-themed her father, the memory of all that had
‘This Is It’ tour at the 02 in London, gone before all but disappeared.”
plans were well underway to capital- “I really believe that So what should the executors be do-
ise on the tour and revive the flagging
Michael Jackson
ing now to ensure the longevity of the
fortunes of the star. Michael Jackson brand? David Reeder
But it was not to be. The thousands
will be far bigger
is very clear. “They need to protect the
of fans that had booked tickets for
than Elvis in terms
brand and take their time establishing
the concerts had their money re-
of revenue from
the best way forwards – whether this
funded and the commercial aspects of is by appointing licensing specialists in
the tour were left in limbo for a few licensing.” house or retaining an agency to han-
weeks whilst the untimely news of his dle the licensing. I believe, at this point,
David Reeder,
death sunk in. items that would have been available they need to take a step back, after
Vice President at
Despite the well publicised court ap- for the shows. the initial frenzy of activity, and not be
GreenLight can be
pearances by Jackson’s mother, Kath- Beyond this initial round of product, afraid to say no to deals that don’t en- contacted via
erine Jackson and the emergence of a David Reeder believes that the estate hance the brand’s standing.” www.greenlightrights.com
will that named John Branca and John are in the process of establishing how Reeder believes that by the begin-
McClain as administrators and execu- best to move forwards. “They are try- ning of next year, the estate will have
tors, David Reeder believes that, com- ing to lay the foundations for a long- a long-term programme in place. “The
pared with some celebrity estates, term brand,” he explained. “Michael potential for Michael Jackson licens-
Michael Jackson’s affairs are being Jackson was the breadwinner in the ing is huge – particularly if the pro-
handled relatively painlessly. family and they know that they now gramme cultivates the advertising side
“There is, of course, a lot going on,” need to do some smart long-term li- of the business as well as the product
he explained. “But this is pretty civi- censing deals. I know from conversa- side. After all, when you think about
lised compared with some. The two tions that the family understand the it, there are so many sub-brands that
executors are continuing to serve in need to create a legacy for Michael’s can be utilized. On the music side, Mi-
their role and, gradually, everything is children.” chael left over 100 unreleased but re-
getting sorted out.” Of course, initial proposals are al- corded tracks as a legacy for his kids.
Of course, one of the first aspects was ready on the table for books and oth- If the Elvis programme can generate
the financial fall-out from the concert er products which will be rushed to $55 million as it did last year, within
tour. AEG Live, the concert promot- market in the wake of Jackson’s death. a couple of years the Michael Jackson
ers, apparently spent over $30 million However, Reeder believes that the po- programme could far exceed this.”
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