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Clutterbuck row over Paddington Bear royalties lands in UK High Court

The 2014 Paddington movie

The son of the producer of the original Paddington Bear TV series has taken author Michael Bond’s former business Paddington and Company to the UK High Court in a dispute about royalty payments.

The original Paddington Bear series Paddington, which aired on BBC One from 1976 to 1980, was produced by Graham Clutterbuck.

Clutterbuck brokered a “gentleman’s agreement” with Bond decades ago, in which it was agreed the producer, and subsequently his family following his death in 1988, would receive 10% of all future worldwide Paddington merchandise royalties.

This arrangement was not written down but was formalised by a royalty distribution agreement in 2013.

But Clutterbuck’s son, Michael Clutterbuck, is disputing the payments the family has received from Paddington and Company since it was bought by French media firm Vivendi in 2016 and following Bond’s death in 2017.

According to lawyers for Clutterbuck’s company Pixdene, the payments received have only averaged £30,000 (US$35,237) a year since 2016, despite the huge success of the Paddington movies in 2014 and 2017.

The High Court has granted Pixdene permission to send independent auditors into Paddington and Company to inspect the royalties accounts. Pixdene’s lawyers said the potential sums at stake could be “substantial” since the worldwide market for Paddington merchandise was reported to be worth £5m in 2017.

Paddington and Company, however, is arguing that the payments are correct and in line with the agreement.

A dispute surrounding the arrangement originally arose after Vivendi bought Paddington and Company in 2016, with the French company claiming that all payments had been “gratuitous.” That row was eventually settled, however, with the conclusion that the agreement was binding.

Vivendi also owns StudioCanal, the prodco behind the second Paddington movie Paddington 2, and the upcoming third film.

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