Peter S. Beagle’s representatives announced in a press release today that he, as part of a new ownership group, has prevailed after years of litigation in securing control of his literary works and other intellectual property following a sale recently approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Court. This comes after a 2019 California court decision that awarded Beagle $332,000 in damages against his former manager Connor Cochran.
The press release follows:
Following a lengthy bankruptcy court and California state court battle, Peter Beagle has finally reclaimed rights with respect to the vast majority of his Intellectual Property (IP) for the first time in decades. The bankruptcy case stemmed from a 2015 lawsuit in which Peter Beagle sued, and prevailed, against his ex-manager for elder abuse, fraud and other serious claims. The Bankruptcy Court recently approved a sale, which was effectuated shortly following that order that facilitates the return of Beagle’s body of work to an ownership group that includes Beagle, the IP’s creator and rightful owner.
A Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America 2018 Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master, Beagle’s best-known work is “The Last Unicorn”, a fantasy novel, which Locus Magazine subscribers voted the number five “All-Time Best Fantasy Novel” in 1987. A prolific and multi-award winning author, the 81-year old’s “The Last Unicorn” was included in TIME’s list of “100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time,” published in October 2020. TIME describes these books as “the most engaging, inventive and influential works of fantasy fiction, in chronological order beginning in the 9th century.” The IP spans the entire breadth of the acclaimed author’s decades-long career and includes newer works that have never been seen by the public.
In 2015 Peter Beagle sued his ex-manager. After four difficult years, in July 2019 the Superior Court of California issued a judgement in Beagle’s favor. According to the decision, Beagle won on four out of six causes that went to trial: “financial elder abuse (which Plaintiff also characterized as “elder abuse – constructive fraud”); Fraud; Breach of Fiduciary Duty; and Defamation (Slander).” Kathleen Hunt, Beagle’s attorney in the case said, “We sued because Peter had suffered from a host of injuries including fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. When the trial was about to begin – actually hours before we were scheduled to be in Court – his ex-manager filed for bankruptcy.” Hunt, Beagle’s estate planning lawyer, stepped up and took on the case pro bono after it became increasingly clear that Beagle was being abused. The Court decided to bifurcate some of the bankruptcy matters from the claims made in the original case. “First we won the trial, and then Peter and I followed his ex-manager right to the Bankruptcy Court. Peter wanted his reputation and his life’s work back. I couldn’t be happier” added Hunt.
James “Jamie” Null, a partner at Loeb & Loeb’s Capital Markets and Corporate practice in New York City, coordinated Beagle’s representation in the bankruptcy matter. Null said, “While it is a sad commentary that it took Peter so many years to get back what he already had, we are delighted to be looking forward to advising on the wonderful possibilities that come with reintroducing millions of new readers and viewers to the amazing world that Peter created.” Loeb & Loeb’s strong and deep core competencies in a variety of areas, including Bankruptcy (particularly with respect to publishing and media assets,) library acquisitions, copyright and artist estate planning allowed the case to get to the finish line. Null began the multi-year bankruptcy process with his Eversheds Sutherland colleague at the time, William Dudzinksy. “There was a significant and dedicated years-long group effort — including attorneys and other fellow travelers like Lauren Sands –– to give back to Peter some measure of control and the economics to the vast majority of his life’s work,” added Null. “It is somewhat unique in the media space to have such a complete body of an author’s work, where the author has real creative input and a dedicated and experienced group of partners and advisors that are respectful of the works and author while also being practical business minded professionals,” continued Null. The bankruptcy case has allowed Beagle indirectly to retain a significant part of his IP, and to reacquire certain rights with respect to The Last Unicorn, including author-driven sequels.
For Peter Beagle, his journey over the past several years has reinforced the dangers of elder abuse and the urgent need to shine a spotlight on this far too common and sinister crime. Older people, and often older writers, can be easy targets, particularly individuals whose age might make them more susceptible to claims that they’re in cognitive decline. These types of insidious suggestions and claims – notions that someone has dementia or looks like “they’re losing it” –serve to reinforce typical fears, creating and heightening self-doubt even when it is not warranted. The result can be terrifying for any vulnerable older person. The risk for the elderly is great when confronted by someone like Beagle’s former manager who, as described by the Superior Court of California in Beagle’s case, “…presents as an extremely intelligent, articulate, overly-aggressive hustler and pitchman…[with]…a flair for the dramatic that is at best loosely based in truth.”
“I’ve known older people who were seriously abused,” said Beagle. “So I can understand, on a bad day, the self-doubt, the terror. Writers don’t know how we do what we do. We don’t know what it was that came and then left us. That makes it awfully easy for us to believe the doubt even when it shouldn’t be there.”
One of Beagle’s future projects will be to advocate and raise awareness about elder abuse, with plans for the creation of a non-profit to address this issue in the works. But Beagle’s focus right now is on getting down to business, working in partnership with SHP to explore new projects based upon his extensive library of works, now back within his creative control, and continuing to write new material. “I’m going to be working. For me, that’s perfect. There are so many possibilities. This feels like a rebirth. I’m not only still here, I’m more still here.”
ABOUT SHP AND THE BEAGLEVERSE ®
SHP, LLC is a newly formed entertainment company founded by deeply experienced industry veterans Lauren Sands and Michael Heard in partnership with world-renowned fantasy author Peter S. Beagle. Beagleverse ® possesses arguably one of the greatest collections of fantasy writings ever created by a single artist, a veritable gold mine of transformative content. Possessing a deep expertise in Live Action, Animation, Broadway Musicals, Comics, Gaming and Disruptive Entertainment Technology, Beagleverse ® is poised to leverage Beagle’s libraryand spread the Beagleverse ® brand across traditional and emerging platforms and consumer markets.
LAUREN SANDS & MICHAEL HEARD– CO-FOUNDERS.
PETER S. BEAGLE – Noted author and screenwriter Peter Beagle is a recipient of the prestigious Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Mythopoeic Awards, and a World Fantasy and Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America 2018 Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master, among other literary achievements. He has given generations of readers the magic of unicorns, haunted cemeteries, lascivious trees and disgruntled gods. A prolific author, his best-known work is The Last Unicorn, a fantasy novel, which Locus Magazine subscribers voted the number five “All-Time Best Fantasy Novel” in 1987. Fellow Hugo and Nebula-award-winning author Neil Gaiman has described Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place as his “I-wish-I’d-written-that first novel.” In October 2020, The Last Unicorn was included in TIME’s “100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time,” a group of books that was compiled together with a panel of leading fantasy authors—N.K. Jemisin, Neil Gaiman, Sabaa Tahir, Tomi Adeyemi, Diana Gabaldon, George R.R. Martin, Cassandra Clare and Marlon James. TIME describes these books as “the most engaging, inventive and influential works of fantasy fiction, in chronological order beginning in the 9th century.”
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge for the story.]