Earnhardt a Free Agent
Months of speculation about Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended last week, when the veteran driver announced he is leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc. His departure is slated for the 2007 season.
Earnhardt Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, his business manager and sister, had been attempting to negotiate a contract all year with DEI. Earnhardt Jr. was hoping to secure a 51 percent majority in DEI, and a deadline to complete the deal was announced for the end of the month. That was called short, though, when the parties realized that they could not come to agreement.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has spent all nine seasons of his NEXTEL Cup career driving for DEI and he came close to winning a Cup championship in 2003 when he won two races, scoring 21 top-10 finishes and an overall finish in third in the final points standings.
Marilyn Monroe Center of Post-Mortem Publicity Case
The heirs of a photographer who took famous pictures of Marilyn Monroe did not violate the Hollywood star’s rights by selling pictures without the consent of her heirs, a federal judge ruled last week.
U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon said that a company headed by three children of the late photographer, Sam Shaw, did not violate the rights of Monroe’s estate by using pictures of her on T-shirts marketed and sold in Indiana. Millions of dollars were believed to be at stake in the litigation.
The Shaw Family Archives Ltd. had asked the court to rule that a 1994 law did not create post-mortem publicity rights for Marilyn Monroe LLC. The latter company is headed by Anna Strasberg, the wife of Monroe’s producer, Lee Strasberg, who received the bulk of the star’s estate. He died in 1982.
The Shaw Family Archives case hinged in part on the Indiana Right of Publicity Act, passed in 1994, which established a right to publicity extending for 100 years after the subject’s death. The case was first litigated in Indiana before being transferred to Manhattan.
Millions of dollars were believed to be at stake in the litigation, in part because Shaw’s photographs include some of the most famous pictures of the pinup queen, including pictures of her standing over a subway grate for the 1955 film, The Seven Year Itch.
The decision could have repercussions throughout the licensing industry, where dead celebrities such as Monroe, Elvis Presley, James Dean, and others have become big business.
Steve & Barry’s Signs Amanda Bynes
After recently launching its Sarah Jessica Parker “Bitten” fashion line, Steve & Barry’s inked a deal with actress Amanda Bynes, who will create an exclusive collection of apparel and accessories for the 200-store chain beginning in August. According to a report in Women’s Wear Daily, each piece in the line, to be called “Dear,” will retail at $19.98 or below—in line with “Bitten’s” price points, but still higher than the retailer’s typical range of apparel, which is around $10.
Agent, Exec Sentenced in WWE Kickback Scheme
A former licensing agent for World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. and a former executive for the company were sentenced for their roles in a $1 million kickback scheme, federal prosecutors said.
Stanley Shenker was sentenced to 33 months in prison and three years of probation, and James K. Bell received an eight-month sentence and three years of probation.
Shenker pleaded guilty in January to conspiring to defraud WWE of honest services by paying about $1 million in kickbacks to Bell, a WWE insider. Bell pleaded guilty in 2005 to a related charge.
Shenker, the sole corporate officer of Stanley Shenker and Associates Inc., which provided licensing services to WWE, admitted that he agreed with Bell, WWE’s senior vice president of licensing and merchandising, to defraud WWE by paying kickbacks to Bell for future business and concealing the payments.
During the conspiracy from 1998 to 2002, Shenker secretly paid Bell about $950,000, a fraction of commissions Shenker received from WWE.
Shenker and Bell disguised the payments by falsely suggesting in invoices that Bell had earned the payments by providing consulting services.
With the fake invoices, Shenker was able to deduct the payments on his tax returns as purported business expenses.
Shenker was ordered as part of his sentencing to pay $2.8 million in restitution to WWE. Bell was ordered to pay a $6,000 fine and more than $950,000 in restitution.
Toys “R” Us Supports Thomas & Friends Live Show
Toys “R” Us will become a depot for Thomas & Friends fans via a strategic marketing alliance supporting the property’s new touring stage show. The retailer will distribute marketing materials for “Thomas & Friends Live on Stage” (produced by ThemeSTAR) with store guests given an exclusive window on pre-sale tickets with any Thomas & Friends purchase of $9.99 or more. The offer runs through the duration of the U.S. tour in October 2007. Toys “R” Us will promote the Thomas & Friends Live on Stage show in-store and online, and through advertising support with direct mail and monthly e-blasts to consumers.
Girl Power on Display at Trendy L.A. Boutique
The windows at Intuition are filled with girl power this month as a collection of SUPERGIRL products, featuring the S-Shield, launched exclusively at the Los Angeles specialty boutique. The collection, launched by Warner Bros. Consumer Products on behalf of DC Comics, includes an S-shield diamond necklace by D’Annunzio; Ts, tanks, and hoodies by Junk Food Clothing; halter sundresses by FEW; limited-edition flip-flops by Havaianas; ballet flats with Jibbitz by Crocs; a sport bag by Crocs; Bejeweled Swarovski embellished Ts; embroidered painter hats by Goorin Bros.; and gold charm necklaces by White Trash Charms. Products will also be available online. An in-store event was held May 10 with proceeds to benefit Girls Inc. of Greater Los Angeles, a national non-profit youth organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.
Princess Bride Crown Jewel of Licensing Initiative
The Princess Bride will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a licensing program befitting a queen. Act III Licensing plans a variety of programs, including exposure at Steve & Barry’s with T-shirts and loungewear for men and women in fall. Fox Home Entertainment will also come to market with a special-edition DVD to hit stores this fall. Details surrounding the release and marketing plans will be revealed soon. Other new licensees include: NECA for figures, novelty gifts, accessories and stationery; Fortune Fashions for T-shirts to hit the mid-tier and mass market; Worldwide Biggies for an action-adventure animated casual game and a broadband-connected game to be teased on the DVD and available for download across all online game sites; and MeadWestvaco for calendars. Licensees are currently being sought for selected accessories, health and beauty, mobile content, toys and games, and plush.
FremantleMedia To Create Program for “Baywatch”
“Baywatch” will have its day in the sun once again as FremantleMedia is creating a licensing program for the 1990s TV show. Sak’s Fifth Avenue will have the exclusive on a range of products from Knot4Nothing, including men’s and women’s T-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, and headwear. The products will then head to high-end department stores and upper-tier specialty boutiques. Other licensees on board for the launch include INGEAR Swim with women’s and juniors’ swimwear and beach sportswear including tank tops, cover-ups, sarongs, and skirts, as well as beach accessories such as beach towels and flip-flops due spring 2008. Mad Engine will come to market with young men’s apparel for mass and specialty retailers that include T-shirts, fleece, thermal tanks, and muscle Ts, and MeadWestvaco will release a full line of wall calendars, mini calendars, and Day Dreams available in fall in the U.S. at all mass and specialty stores.
Jada Toys, Chub City Host Film Contest
Jada Toys and Chub City are sponsoring the “Chub City In Action” Film Contest where all hobbyist and professional filmmakers and videographers can create a 28-second commercial for one of three cash prizes and a chance to show their creations at this year’s Licensing International show at the Chub City booth. Submissions will be accepted through May 31. Submissions must integrate or feature one or more Chub City Toys, including figures, vehicles, playsets, and interactive i-Playaz. Entry forms and contest rules are at www.chubcity.com.
ELLE Watches Out for New Brand Extension
Brands 88 will be launching ELLE Watches Fall Collection, a branded line of fashion and lifestyle sterling silver watches as an extension to its line of ELLE Jewelry. The collection will retail from $200 to $600 and be available at fine jewelers and specialty retailers.
AGP Embraces Contemporary Urban Vinyl Property
American Greetings Properties optioned TinPo, a new urban vinyl property in order to build it out as a multi-platform, entertainment-based property. Created by UNKL, the contemporary property is a species of 2-inch four-legged creatures, with squat body types and round head silhouettes that will be targeted at 6- to 12-year-olds. The company will initially focus on developing entertainment and digital content, and will expand TinPo into a broad merchandising program. The urban vinyl movement is a trend of designer toys, usually made of vinyl and inspired by hip-hop music or youth popular culture. The property is also being developed for use in TV interstitials beginning fall 2007 as part of the company’s larger entertainment expansion across various properties.
Big Tent To Unearth Opportunities for Discovery Kids
Big Tent Entertainment was appointed exclusive U.S. licensing agent for Discovery Kids with responsibility for developing programs for properties including “Growing Up Creepie,” “Kenny the Shark,” and “Tutenstein,” and live-action series “Endurance,” “Flight 29 Down,” and “Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls.” The agency is also charged with spearheading licensing efforts for Ready Set Learn!, the pre-school block that airs on Discovery Kids Channel and TLC. Plans going forward include creating products that bring to life the real world and experiential attributes of the Discovery Kids brand and the important curriculum of Ready Set Learn! The program will focus on key categories including soundtrack albums, toys and plush, board games, apparel and fashion accessories, novelties, household items, social expressions, paper products, video games, publishing and mobile entertainment. In addition to licensing agent services, Big Tent will also collaborate on the overall brand marketing strategy for the properties.
Entara Shops Around New Series, Inks Deal for Domo
Entara Ltd. will co-produce the new children’s animated TV series “Dex Hamilton: Alien Entomologist” in conjunction with March Entertainment. The company is currently seeking a worldwide broadcast partner for the 26-episode series. Dex Hamilton, part naturalist, all scientist, and a leading mind in alien entomology, is in constant pursuit to further the universal exploration of fantastic alien insects on the rise, and help contain an evil mastermind emerging from the shadows.
In other news, the company inked a licensing deal with Underground Toys for plush and plush key rings for Domo, already headed to shelves. Fashion UK will produce a range of adult and teen T-shirts and sweatshirts across the UK market for fall 2007.
Wumblers Attract First Licensing Partner
The Giddy Gander Company LLC signed its first licensing deal for The Wumblers with ELH Enterprises on board for plush. The series will begin airing on both the Trinity Broadcasting Network and Smile of a Child Network in the fall.
TV-Loonland Eyes International Markets for “Little Princess”
TV-Loonland appointed Martin Yaffe International as a toy licensee for preschool show “Little Princess” (produced by The Illuminated Film Company). The company plans a range of products including figures, plush, and inflatables, as well as wheeled and educational activity toys. First products are expected to hit store shelves in the UK and Ireland in February 2008.
Execs on the Move
Robert Giampietro was named senior vice president, trend and innovation, for Toys “R” Us, U.S.
Patricia Wyatt, president of HIT Entertainment’s North American operations, has stepped down from active management of the company. Wyatt will continue to provide consultation to HIT to help assure a smooth transition period while pursuing other opportunities.
Peter Van Raalte, chairman of the board of LIMA and most recently an executive with Joester Loria, has joined the licensing department at Madison Square Garden/Radio City Music Hall.
Kabillion named Bob McPhee executive vice president, advertising sales.