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Wednesday, June 3, 1998 Published at 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK

Business: The Company File

Chorion grabs the Booker prize

Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple have teamed up with Noddy

Booker, the cash and carry group which sponsors the literary world's best known prize, has ended its business association with book publishing.

The group has sold the rights to Agatha Christie's extensive book collection to Chorion in a 10m deal.

Chorion already owns Enid Blyton's back catalogue and runs London's Trocadero leisure complex..

Chorion has bought Bookers' 64% stake in Agatha Christie Ltd.

Agatha Christie wrote 79 crime novels and short stories and 19 plays including The Mousetrap, which has enjoyed the world's longest ever theatrical run. Her works have proved more popular than the Bible and Shakespeare.

Agatha Christie is the world's best selling author, best known for creating Hercule Poirot, the fastidious Belgian detective, and Miss Marple, the aged sleuth.

The remaining one third of the Agatha Christie business is still owned by her family and is chaired by her grandson Mathew Pritchard.

Best seller

John Conlan, chairman of Chorion, said: "This acquisition...fits exceptionally well with our existing Enid Blyton brand and quite uniquely brings together under one ownership and management two of the world's most successful authors."

He said Agatha Christie had sold more than 2bn books.

Chorion, which changed its name from Trocadero last year, bought the Enid Blyton estate in 1996 for 13m.

Since then it has launched an international sales drive, taking Enid Blyton's best known characters around the world.

The group has already introduced a range of merchandise and new products based on children's favourites such as Noddy and is likely to do the same with Agatha's Christie's collection of characters.

Booker restructuring

Booker has owned the Agatha Christie rights since the 1960s but has decided to sell them as part of a radical restructuring plan which includes an extensive disposal programme.

It also plans to off-load its food distribution and fish processing subsidiaries.

Chorion has also purchased a 51% shareholding in the copyrights of the late Robert Bolt, whose wrote "A Man For All Seasons."

Last year the Agatha Christie estate made a pre-tax profit of 1.5m on sales of 2.1m. Most of that revenue comes from royalties on book sales. The rest is made up of income from films, television and audio publishing.

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