Royalties, Licensing, ownership and history
It may not be easy navigating in the world of Robert E. Howard. Who owns the rights to his characters, what are the different organizations and fan groups. Who is who and who did what?
I contacted Fredrik Malmberg, a man with many talents. He speaks Swedish, Norwegian, German, Spanish and English. With broad experience in different media channels. Direct experience with high-level negotiations, creative and business development as well as talent packaging, domestic and foreign sales, financing and production of film, tv and videogames. He is also listed as producer for Conan the Barbarian (2011) and as producer for the announced “The Legend of Conan”.
But let’s step back a few years. Who “owned” Robert E. Howards characters after his death?
Alla Ray Kuykendall was only 18 the day Robert Howard, killed himself in Cross Plains, a small West Texas town 30 miles away from Ranger, Texas where she lived. The Kuykendalls met Howard’s father, by then in his 70s, during World War II.Alla Rays father had a small hospital and helped doctor Howard (Roberts father) who was unable to run a practice by himself. It helped her father and made it easier for dr. Howard. When dr. Howard tied four years later he left his entire state to Kuykendall. The doctor’s possessions consisted of a couple of thousand dollars in the bank, some manuscripts in a trunk — and the copyrights to Robert’s work.
When Alla Ray’s father died in 1959, the literary agency closed down. It suggested that Howard’s property be put in the hands of a Pasadena, Tex., paper warehouse operator named Glenn Lord, who was a fan of Howard’s and had collected many of his works.
Glenn Lord was the man who built up the interest in Conan and the other stories Howard wrote when he took over as literary agent. He began collecting and sending copies of manuscripts to publishers and magazines. By sheer perseverance and enthusiasm, he created a market. It started growing slowly about the late 1950s. It gradually grew and grew and grew until by the 1960s, Robert became quite a popular writer. From then on, it just eploded.
But along with the bigger dividend checks came copyright problems. So the Kuykendalls and Philadelphia science fiction writer Sprague de Camp established Conan Properties, of which the Kuykendalls own half.
Lyon Sprague De Camp (1907-2000) edited some of Howard’s works for publication in book form and began writing new stories using Howard’s characters and storylines. Many things have been said about de Camp and not all flattering. He added and rewrite Conan stories and also published a biography about Howard where he gave his own opinions on him.
In 1998, Rusty Burke got involved with Wandering Star and for the next few years had a lot of interactions with Jack and Barbara Baum, who inherited the Howard Properties from Alla Ray Kuykendall Morris (1916-1995). Together they were working to try to get “pure text” Howard into print. At the same time, for business reasons, they tried to consolidate the various properties.
Separate corporations had been set up for different characters. Not just Conan, but Kull, Solomon Kane, etc. The goal was to bring it all under the same REH Properties umbrella, except for Conan. Red Sonja did not became part of this and Red Sonja (with an j) is not a character of Howard anyway.
In 2002, Paradox Entertainment Inc. purchased Conan Properties International (CPI) and has run CPI as a subsidiary since.
By 2005 Jack and Barbara Baum realized that they could not handle all this business themselves with all the copyright, trademark, licensing and other business issues. They sold REH Properties, Kull Productions and Solomon Kane Paradox Entertainment Inc in 2006 and Fredrik Malmberg.
Fredrik Malmberg served as President and CEO of Paradox from 2006 before he later left Paradox Entertainment and founded Cabinet Entertainment in 2014. His Cabinet Group purchased Paradox Entertainment Inc in 2015 and changed its name to Cabinet Licensing Inc. in mid-2015. They subsequently rolled Solomon Kane Inc and Kull Productions into REH Properties, also run as subsidiary of Cabinet Licensing Inc.
Malmberg has financed and produced more than ten films and has extensive experience in the branding, merchandising and licensing fields. Cabinet Licensing is the consumer products division which manages and develops global entertainment franchises in all forms of media, including motion picture, television, and the gaming, publishing and toy/collectibles industries.