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Businessweek Archives

The Princess And The Pirates

In Business This Week: HEADLINER


Knickknack manufacturers who have been cashing in on Diana may soon be hearing from her heirs' lawyers. The estate of the Princess plans to move aggressively to protect the intellectual-property rights to her image. "We are planning to go after the bigger, nastier, more commercial people in each jurisdiction in hopes that others will take notice," says A.G. Dobson, a solicitor at the London firm of Lawrence Graham. Dobson says the estate, whose beneficiaries are Princes William, 15, and Harry, 13, has no wish to profit from Diana's image. But it does want to make sure it is used tastefully. It also wants to establish the right to direct any proceeds to charities the estate chooses.

Dobson says the estate has registered "rights of publicity" to Diana's image in some U.S. states. It has also registered about 50 images of Diana in Britain as trademarks. Diana's executors, her sister and mother, will decide which uses are appropriate. Potentially lucrative uses, such as soft-drink ads, are unlikely to be approved.EDITED BY PAT WECHSLER By Stanley ReedReturn to top


LOOK FOR PLENTY OF DEALing at H.J. Heinz when 48-year-old Chief Operating Officer William Johnson takes over the top job from Anthony O'Reilly in April. Johnson, who engineered Heinz's $725 million buyout of Quaker Oats' pet-food division two years ago, is expected to focus on acquisitions in Asia. The thinking behind that strategy, say insiders: Financial crises are driving down prices and regulations, while there are ever more mouths to feed. But Johnson may be a seller, too: He is said to be no fan of Heinz's sole service business, Weight Watchers International. A recent diet campaign, known as One-Two-Three, pushed up class enrollment recently. But from Johnson's viewpoint, success might just raise the price Weight Watchers will fetch.EDITED BY PAT WECHSLERReturn to top


BANKING'S FEEDING FRENZY continues. Cleveland's National City is picking up First of America Bank for about $7.1 billion in a stock swap. The new merged institution will have $75 billion in assets, making it the nation's 13th-largest. The proposed merger strengthens National City's base in the Midwest by giving it a new presence in Michigan and Illinois. And downstream, analysts expect the merger to make National City a tasty morsel for an even bigger fish, such as NationsBank, First Union, or BankAmerica.EDITED BY PAT WECHSLERReturn to top


THE WAVE OF CONSOLIDATION in hotels has hardly subsided. On Dec. 2, Patriot American Hospitality announced plans to shell out $1.34 billion in cash and stock for Interstate Hotels, the nation's biggest independent manager of hotels. Dallas-based Patriot, the nation's second-largest hotel real estate investment trust, has been on an acquisition spree since it became a REIT in 1995. The Interstate deal, its biggest, allows Patriot to build a higher profile for its Wyndham brand. After the merger, Patriot will own or operate 455 hotels and resorts worldwide.EDITED BY PAT WECHSLERReturn to top

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