Zooey Deschanel's lawsuit, which claims shoe designer Steve Madden (SHOO) owes her $2 million for failing to move forward on a contract to put the actress's name and face on a line of shoes, confirms what you've always suspected about celebrity brand extensions: They basically amount to money for nothing, on both sides of the equation.
Her complaint is a short one. It states that Deschanel and Madden agreed to produce a line titled "Zooey shoes & accessories." Madden agreed to pay Deschanel $2 million plus a 5 percent royalty fee on sales. In return, Deschanel agreed to this:
Yup, Deschanel was to be paid $2 million for nothing more than 13 days of photoshoots, plus a promise not to talk to anyone else in the shoe business. She was not to be involved in the design and, on the basis of her own claim, appears to have had no creative control of the product. Keep this in mind next time you see The Olsens, Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Lopez, Alexa Chung, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, or Madonna talking on TV about how their new line means so much to them.
On Madden's side, the deal was equally easy (on paper at least). Jezebel does the math by extrapolating from Jessica Simpson's deal for her shoe, denim, accessories, swimwear, watches and fragrances lines: Simpson's revenues are about $750 million, and her cut of that (assuming she gets the full "Deschanel") would be about $37.5 million. In other words, if a celebrity line does well, the $2 million is a mere bagatelle.
The suit doesn't say why Madden shied away from Deschanel, although it does admit that the company eventually chiseled her down to $1.5 million on the startup fee. Doubtless Madden will have an alternative and equally interesting explanation of events.
Here's some speculation: Although Deschanel is a luminous and appealing screen presence, she's not that famous. Her singing is an acquired taste, at best. Although she was great as the office heartbreaker in 500 Days of Summer, she's perhaps best known for her lovely rendition of Baby It's Cold Outside in the movie Elf (video below -- hey, it's Xmas!). On that basis, could it be that after signing the contract Madden found its focus groups full of teenagers going, "er, like, who?"
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