History lessons - Reap the small print - George Lucas

George Lucas could have taken a handsome director's fee for 1977's Star Wars. Instead, the up-and-coming director asked 20th Century Fox for a comparatively paltry $175,000 - plus 40% of the merchandising rights to the film and any subsequent sequels.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The suits rubbed their hands, thinking they'd pulled one over on him. But his shrewd manipulation of the small print would come back to bite them: the film became a six-episode global phenomenon, and takings from the franchise's merchandise easily dwarfed those at the box office. For the past 30 years, Star Wars images have been stamped on everything from toys to breakfast cereals, and Lucas has raked it in. Now 66, he is worth $3.6 billion. We may have Lucas to thank for the ensuing glut of tacky tie-ins from the likes of Burger King and Disney, but the business lesson is clear: he knew he wasn't simply selling a film, and profited from the full potential of what he'd made. When it comes to drafting a deal, do a Lucas, not a Fox.

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