Peanuts Cartoon Empire Sells for $175M

Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy and Linus have a new owner, after a New York brand management company paid $175 million for a controlling stake in Peanuts.

Iconix Brand Group, the company that owns the Joe Boxer, London Fog, Starter and Mudd brands, bought an 80 percent stake in the venerable cartoon empire from E.W. Scripps. The family of cartoonist Charles Schulz will own the remaining 20 percent. The sale also includes rights to the Dilbert cartoon and other assets.

Worldwide, the Peanuts cartoons generate about $2 billion per year in retail sales. About two-thirds of that revenue comes from outside the U.S. The brand is licensed in more than 40 countries.

"This asset is a dream for a marketer," Neil Cole, chief executive of Iconix, told the The Wall Street Journal. The company expects to generate about $75 million in royalties annually. The Schulz family will receive a portion of the revenue with their minority stake in the license.

There are more than 1,200 existing licenses with the Peanuts characters, whose cast includes Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Lucy. Universal Studios, CVS Caremark, Walgreen's, Benetton and H&M all currently have agreements.

Iconix also recently struck a deal with Madonna to use her name and personality on footwear and apparel along with other products. The company is already worth roughly $1.3 billion.

Schulz created the comic strip, originally titled "Li'l Folks," in 1950. He died at age 77 in February 2000, one day before the final Peanuts cartoon ran.

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