Licensing consultant Michael Stone ’72 recently gave an interview to Newsweek online about the commercial legacy of Michael Jackson. Stone drew upon his experience as steward of the Andy Warhol trademark (he guided the Pope of Pop's eponymous Foundation for the Visual Arts to its now $240 million endowment) as he considered the fate of the Jackson imprint.
“The first thing that has to be determined,” Stone said, “is who owns what?” Amid the paroxysm of interest in Jackson’s life and career, counterfeit commemorative items abound, and no one has yet emerged with proper authority to control it. “There are music rights. There are album-cover rights. There are television rights. There are rights to his name, likeness, image, and signature,” said Stone. “There are so many different rights floating around. Whoever controls the rights will have to decide how they want to commercialize Michael Jackson.”
On one hand, there is the Elvis Presley model of crass, copious exploitation. (Think: Graceland.) On the other hand, there is the John Lennon model of vigilant conservatorship, which foregrounds the songwriter’s vital musical significance. Stone predicted that the engineers of Michael Jackson’s commercial legacy will lean toward the former. Serious doubts about the worth of Jackson’s estate, which could take years to calculate accurately, will likely drive them to it. “Quite honestly,” he said, “even though I’m a licensing guy, it’s a shame.”
Stone himself expressed doubt about the profitability of an emporium of Jackson products. “His is a tarnished image already because of the life that he led, and the accusations made against him, true or false,” he cautioned. “I would recommend not tarnishing it further by allowing a bunch of commemorative products to get released into the marketplace.”
Michael Stone is co-founder and president of Beanstalk Group, a leading brand licensing agency and consultancy, and subsidiary of global advertising and marketing communications body Omnicon Group. Beanstalk represents many famous names, including World Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Army, Ford Motor Company, Jaguar, Mustang, Volvo, Vespa, Harley-Davidson, Samsonite, Jack Daniel’s, AT&T, L.L. Bean, mary-kateandashley, Dr. Seuss, Selma Hayek, and Paris Hilton.
Stone has served as licensing consultant for McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Columbia Sportswear, and the U.S. Olympic Committee. He has been quoted in a variety of publications, including Advertising Age, Brandweek, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal. He has also appeared as an industry expert on broadcast outlets, including Fox Business News.
Stone graduated from Emory University School of Law in 1975. He graduated from Hamilton with a degree in government. As a student, he played men’s tennis for the Continentals.
Stone resides in New York City.