MetLife sends Snoopy and his Peanuts friends packing

After more than three decades of loyal service, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang are being laid off by MetLife (MET).

The 149-year-old company is jettisoning the cartoon characters as it rebrands itself ahead of a move to spin off its U.S. individual life insurance business next year.

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Photo: United Feature Syndicate

MetLife has long featured the Peanuts gang in print, television and online ads. According to the The Wall Street Journal, MetLife recently notified the company that licenses the characters, Iconix, of its decision, which will be effective at the end of the year. MetLife pays between $10 million and $15 million annually in licensing fees, the newspaper reported. 

Once it has spun off its individual life insurance unit, MetLife will focus on providing businesses with employee life, dental and other insurance, as well as pension plans and annuities.    

“We brought in Snoopy (and the rest of the Peanuts gang) over 30 years ago to make our company more friendly and approachable during a time when insurance companies were seen as cold and distant,” said Ester Lee, MetLife’s global Chief Marketing Officer, in a statement. “However, as we focus on our future, it’s important we associate our brand directly with the work we do and the partnership we have with our customers.”

Peanuts, which was created as a comic strip in 1950 by the late Charles M. Schulz, is enjoying a resurgence in interest thanks to last year’s hit “The Peanuts Movie,” which has grossed more than $244 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.  

New “Peanuts” animated stories began appearing on Time Warner’s Boomerang TV network for kids in May. The 50th anniversary showing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” on ABC topped the ratings.

“There is speculation… that considering how well the movie did the first time around that there will be a sequel, said Steven Marotta, an analyst with C.L. King & Associates, who rates Iconix shares as “neutral,” adding that the movie’s popularity led to additional licensing deals for Iconix.

Products featuring Charlie Brown, Snoopy and other Peanuts characters generate about $100 million in annual revenue for Iconix. Analysts project that revenue will soar to $371 million this year.   

On a retail basis, Peanuts merchandise account for $2 billion in sales annually, according to Melissa Menta, a spokeswoman for Peanuts Worldwide, a venture between Iconix and Schulz’s family. She declined to comment on the company’s financials.

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