Friday, February 24, 2006

There's gold in them thar rights

The Literary Saloon has a lot to say about the proposed takeover of Chorion, the UK-based owner of rights in a number of famous literary estates, such as Agatha Christie, Enid Blyton, and others.

What Chorion does, basically, is find ways to make more and more money out of the work of famous writers who have snuffed it. And what interests me is the arithmetic of the deal, and what that implies.

The offer to buy Chorion comes from Lord Alli, who has reportedly teamed up with private equity group 3i to finance the purchase price, which is £108 million. As one City analyst pointed out, the purchase price is 33.7 times 2006 earnings. Which can only mean that Alli thinks that even more money yet can be squeezed out of dear old Agatha and her mates. And it can only mean that he doesn't see any real problem about the copyrights expiring any time soon, or anything inconvenient like that. Nor does he see, presumably, any difficulty in controlling the exploitation of this material when it appears in digital form.

Well, Lord Alli is a likely lad, and he's currently chairman of Chorion, so he's in a position to know what the possibilities of the business are. In 1998, when he became a life peer, aged 34, he was the first openly gay man to be so appointed. The Times has a short profile of him.

Isn't it lucky that the likes of Lord Alli and 3i have all those future big earners scribbling away like mad? Not earning very much at present, of course, but all of them busy acquiring skills which will ensure that, fifty or a hundred years or so from now, long after the writers have lost interest, Chorion will still be in business.

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